LONDON  - Commodities mostly fell in volatile trade this week as investors eyed demand fears, presidential elections in the United States and a looming leadership change in China.

Investors’ focus was firmly fixed on US President Barack Obama’s victory over Republican challenger Mitt Romney in the United States, which is a major consumer of most raw materials. Markets were hit as traders fretted over a looming “fiscal cliff” following Obama’s re-election on Tuesday.

Dealers are also awaiting a once-in-a-decade leadership change in commodities-hungry China. Outgoing President Hu Jintao is due to hand over the reins to Vice President Xi Jinping.

OIL: World oil prices experienced rollercoaster trade as dealers took their cue from demand concerns and the US election, but finished the week in positive territory.

Oil had tumbled to three-month lows on Monday as the market fretted over uncertainty over the crucial race between Obama and Romney.

Prices swung higher on Tuesday, soaring by more than $3 in line with Wall Street gains and the weaker dollar, as Americans headed to the polls.

But prices plunged again on Wednesday, mirroring global equities, as traders worried about the fiscal cliff and after gloomy EU economic forecasts.

Sentiment was hammered after the European Union lowered its economic forecasts for the eurozone, to a contraction of 0.4 per cent this year and miniscule 0.1 per cent growth in 2013.

The market was also dented by profit-taking, the recovering dollar and rising US crude inventories data that signalled weak demand.

On Thursday, crude futures eked out slender gains amid bargain-hunting after the sharp sell-off. However, traders continue to worry that US political gridlock will prevent a compromise to avoid the “fiscal cliff” of automatic tax rises and spending cuts at the end of the year, which could potentially tip the US back into recession.

“The US election and its implications with regards to the political leadership’s ability to handle the approaching fiscal cliff has of course been the main focus and driver behind the turbulence,” said SEB bank analyst Filip Petersson.

“Uncertainty with regards to the Chinese leadership change has also been a factor even though almost no one outside the country really seems to know what to make of it.”

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries meanwhile held to its forecasts of demand for oil this year and next despite uncertainty about the global economy.

By Friday on the New York Mercantile Exchange, West Texas Intermediate (WTI) or light sweet crude for December stood at $85.74 a barrel from $85.32 a week earlier.

On London’s Intercontinental Exchange, Brent North Sea crude for delivery in December rose to $108.23 a barrel from $106.49 a week earlier.

PRECIOUS METALS: Gold prices rallied to $1,739.04 on Friday, hitting the highest point since October, lifted by hopes that Obama would keep ultra-loose monetary policy, dealers said. “The rebound in the price of gold presumably reflects expectations of a longer period of ultra-loose monetary policy under President Obama,” said Capital Economics analyst Julian Jessop.

“We remain unconvinced that a Romney administration would have led to any significant changes in tack at the Federal Reserve.”

By late Friday on the London Bullion Market, gold jumped to $1,738.25 an ounce from $1,685 a week earlier. Silver rose to $32.16 an ounce from $31.92. On the London Platinum and Palladium Market, platinum dipped to $1,559 an ounce from $1,552.

Palladium nudged higher to $612 an ounce from $608.

BASE METALS: Base or industrial metal prices enjoyed mixed fortunes as traders fretted over the US fiscal cliff.

“Once the Obama victory was secured, the market quickly began to focus upon new risks. Top of this list is the looming fiscal cliff in the United States,” Natixis analyst Nic Brown told AFP.

“Obama has less than two months to negotiate a new budgetary agreement with a potentially hostile House of Representatives, or risk incurring automatic tax hikes and spending cuts worth in excess of 4.0 per cent of US GDP next year.”

“Other major concerns include the political hand-over in China, and the parlous state of Europe’s economies in the face of the current fiscal crisis.”

Brown added: “As such, the risks are not necessarily slanted to the downside, even if the situation in Europe does remain truly awful.”

By late Friday on the London Metal Exchange, copper for delivery in three months dropped to $7,534 a tonne from $7,687.50 a week earlier.

Three-month aluminium edged down to $1,907 a tonne from $1,938.

Three-month lead grew to $2,141 a tonne from $2,099.

Three-month tin increased to $20,250 a tonne from $20,200.

Three-month nickel eased to $15,970 a tonne from $15,972.

Three-month zinc increased to $1,889 a tonne from $1,873.75.

COCOA: Prices hit three-month lows, falling in line with most financial markets.

“Futures closed sharply lower on follow through selling from speculators,” said Price Futures Group analyst Jack Scoville.

“There was no real news out there to affect price action, but outside markets were lower and this hurt cocoa.”

By Friday on LIFFE, London’s futures exchange, cocoa for delivery in March fell to £1,524 a tonne compared with £1,573 a week earlier.

On New York’s NYBOT-ICE exchange, cocoa for December dropped to $2,340 a tonne from $2,435 for the December contract a week earlier.

COFFEE: Coffee prices also forged fresh multi-month lows as traders eyed plentiful supplies.

By Friday on NYBOT-ICE, Arabica for delivery in December dipped to 151.45 US cents a pound from 154.10 a week earlier. On LIFFE, Robusta for January stood at $1,971 a tonne compared with $1,973 a week earlier.

SUGAR: The market plunged to lows last seen in August 2010 as sentiment was hit again by hopes of rising Brazilian output.

By Friday on LIFFE, the price of a tonne of white sugar for delivery in March dropped to $505.60 from $520.60 a week earlier for the December contract.

On NYBOT-ICE, the price of unrefined sugar for March slipped to 18.83 US cents a pound from 19.41 cents the previous week.

RUBBER: Prices declined further as traders turned cautious following Obama’s re-election. The Malaysian Rubber Board’s benchmark SMR20 ended the week at 276.00 US cents a kilo, down from 283.55 cents the previous week.