LONDON - Crude oil prices rallied this week on upbeat data in top consumer the United States and concerns over supply disruptions in Libya and Nigeria, dealers said.
Gold ran out of steam and fell from recent peaks as Ukraine tensions eased, while coffee and sugar futures rebounded on tight supply strains.
Commodity market gains were also tempered as weak Chinese manufacturing data sparked demand concerns in the Asian powerhouse economy.
OIL: New York crude began the week on the front foot, rising on Monday as traffic was halted on the Houston Ship Channel, a key petroleum-industry waterway, due to an oil spill.
Prices then jumped further as data showed a fall in crude supplies at a key US trading hub and a surprisingly large decline in gasoline stocks.
The US Energy Information Administration revealed Wednesday that stockpiles sank by 1.3 million barrels at the Cushing, Oklahoma oil-trading hub for the US benchmark. That was the eighth straight weekly decline and leaves Cushing stockpiles at their lowest level since January 2012. In another bright piece of data, the US economy grew at an annual rate of 2.6 percent in the fourth quarter of last year, stronger than the 2.4 percent previously estimated.
And orders for US durable goods—a key indicator—rose 2.2 percent in February from the prior month, official data showed Wednesday, beating expectations for a 1.0-percent decline.
The market also pushed higher on concerns over supply disruption in oil producers Libya and Nigeria, analysts said. In Libya, rebels pressing for autonomy for the country’s eastern Cyrenaica region have been blockading terminals since July, leading to a decline in exports from 1.5 million barrels a day to just 250,000.
And Anglo-Dutch oil giant Shell on Wednesday said it had declared a “force majeure” on crude from Nigeria as it struggles to repair a sabotaged pipeline. Nigeria is Africa’s biggest oil producer, accounting for more than two million barrels per day. “Force majeure” is a legal term releasing a company from contractual obligations when faced with circumstances beyond its control. By Friday on London’s Intercontinental Exchange, Brent North Sea crude for delivery in May rose to $108.04 a barrel from $107.51. On the New York Mercantile Exchange, West Texas Intermediate or light sweet crude for May climbed to $101.67 per barrel from $100.13 a week earlier for the April contract.
PRECIOUS METALS: Gold sank as investors took profits amid fading geopolitical concerns in Ukraine. “The market shed over 3.0 percent in the past week amid ongoing speculative profit-taking and easing risk aversion on global markets,” VTB Capital analyst Andrey Kryuchenkov told AFP.
He added: “Overall, the de-escalation of geopolitical tensions after Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula triggered large scale investor profit taking.”
The glamorous metal touched the lowest point for one and a half months at $1,285.82 per ounce on Friday.
Gold had struck a six-month high at $1,392.22 per ounce the previous week, as investors sought a haven investment to shelter from Ukraine tensions.
By late Friday on the London Bullion Market, the price of gold slid to $1,294.75 an ounce from $1,336 a week earlier.
Silver dipped to $19.71 an ounce from $20.55. On the London Platinum and Palladium Market, platinum reversed to $1,401 an ounce from $1,439. Palladium receded to $771 an ounce from $789.
BASE METALS: Base or industrial metals prices diverged as traders balanced weak manufacturing data against hopes of stimulus measures in key consumer China. HSBC ‘s flash purchasing managers index for March came in at 48.1, an eight-month low and down from 48.5 in February. Anything below 50 indicates contraction while a figure above points to expansion.
Meanwhile on Thursday, the London Metal Exchange (LME) faced a big setback in attempts to reform its warehousing network when a court ruled in favour of objections by Russian firm Rusal. The dispute hinges on plentiful supply of aluminium, and on low interest rates which encourage the stockpiling of metals.The decision by the High Court means that the new warehousing arrangements, a top reform for the LME, will be delayed beyond the intended launch date of April 1. Rusal, a leading group in the aluminium industry, had complained to the court that consultations about the new arrangements had been carried out in an unjust and illegal way.
The LME had intended that the reform would oblige warehouses in its network to deliver more metal each day than they receive. Currently, a lapse of 50 days occurs before metal due for delivery can be collected. By Friday on the LME, copper for delivery in three months rose to $6,635.75 a tonne from $6,508.50 week earlier. Three-month aluminium increased to $1,754.75 a tonne from $1,719. Three-month lead eased to $2,079 a tonne from $2,080. Three-month tin fell to $22,866 a tonne from $22,967. Three-month nickel decreased to $15,850 a tonne from $15,955.
Three-month zinc rose to $1,989.25 a tonne from $1,956. - Sugar sweetens -
SUGAR: Sugar rebounded to three-week peaks on concerns over dry weather in top producer Brazil. “El Nino concerns and strong Brazilian ethanol demand combined with firmer refined values to push the market higher,” said Citi analyst Sterling Smith.
“The total volume on this move is a little on the light side and that can leave the market in a rather overbought condition.”
The El Nino phenomenon, an abnormal warming of surface ocean waters in the eastern Pacific, occurs every two to seven years and causes droughts in some areas and flooding in others. By Friday on LIFFE, the price of a tonne of white sugar for delivery in May increased to $481.80 from $453 a week earlier. On ICE Futures US, the price of unrefined sugar for delivery in May rose to 18.10 US cents a pound from 16.98 US cents.
COFFEE: The price of coffee also climbed on weather fears in Brazil.
By Friday on the ICE Futures US exchange, Arabica for delivery in May rose to 178.30 US cents a pound from 174.05 cents a week earlier. On LIFFE, London’s futures exchange, Robusta for May advanced to $2,097 a tonne from $2,034.
COCOA: Cocoa futures softened on profit-taking after hitting 2.5-year peaks the previous week on keen demand and tight world supplies. By Friday on LIFFE, cocoa for delivery in May fell to £1,865 a tonne from £1,889 a week earlier. On ICE Futures US, cocoa for May eased to $2,945 a tonne from $2,985.