LONDON  - Commodity prices were mostly lower this week on renewed eurozone debt worries following political upheaval in Greece and France, and following disappointing economic data from China, traders said.Prices won some late support from better-than-expected US inflation and consumer sentiment data.
OIL: Oil prices fell for much of the week on heightened eurozone debt worries and disappointing Chinese economic data.
Some found support on Friday from the International Energy Agency’s latest monthly report, which raised slightly its outlook for oil demand growth this year and warned that risks of a shock from Iran persisted.
But generally prices retreated on “the fragile economic conditions in the eurozone and the weaker economic data from China,” Sucden brokers analyst Myrto Sokou said.
Brent crude struck a four-month low of $110.53 on Tuesday before pulling back to finish slightly higher over the week. New York oil meanwhile hit a four-month trough of $95.17 on Wednesday. “We continue to expect crude oil prices to trade sideways to lower,” said Sokou.
“The reasons being there is no real fresh optimistic news about the situation in the eurozone ... It looks like the generally (negative) sentiment will be further confirmed next week,” she added. Elections in France and Greece last Sunday turned on calls for the stress to be changed to growth from the tough austerity policies adopted to deal with the eurozone debt crisis which have dampened the economy.
“European election results revived worries about the eurozone debt crisis, reinforcing anxiety about anemic economic growth and petroleum demand,” Phillip Futures said in a market commentary.
Last weekend’s results in France and Greece “raised doubts about the region’s ability to proceed with austerity measures seen as crucial to addressing soaring debt and a contracting economy,” it added.
China on Friday said the industrial output growth hit a three-year low in April, adding to pressure on Beijing to ease monetary policy after weak trade data the previous day fuelled fears over the world’s biggest energy user. Industrial output in China rose 9.3 percent last month, the slowest pace since May 2009 and below the 12.2 percent consensus forecast complied by Dow Jones Newswires.
“China’s economy is even weaker than (previously) thought, with industrial production growth back in single digits for the first time since the global financial crisis,” said Ren Xianfang, an economist for IHS Global Insight.
The International Energy Agency said that despite recent falls in oil, “the path of market fundamentals for the rest of the year remains highly uncertain and geopolitical risks will likely continue to keep prices high.”
The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries on Thursday revised its 2012 world oil demand outlook slightly upwards, citing a stable US economy and the shutdown of nuclear plants in Japan, which boosted demand.
OPEC forecast 2012 demand at 88.67 million barrels per day, up 0.90 million bpd from 2011.
By late Friday on London’s Intercontinental Exchange, Brent North Sea crude for delivery in June edged up to $112.46 a barrel from $112.27 a week earlier.
On the New York Mercantile Exchange, West Texas Intermediate or light sweet crude for June fell to $96.75 from $98.25.
PRECIOUS METALS: Gold hit a four-month low at $1,573.82 an ounce, while silver hit a similar trough, at $28.46 an ounce.
“As a safe haven, gold should really be in great demand in such uncertain times as these,” Commerzbank analysts said.
“That the price of gold is instead falling, in unison with the rest of the commodities sector, is related in our opinion to the continued strong influence of speculative investors.
“We can well imagine that the gold price over the next few weeks will fall further on the back of additional investor retreat and a stronger US dollar” which makes dollar-priced commodities more expensive for holders of other currencies.
By late Friday on the London Bullion Market, gold had dropped to $1,583 an ounce from $1,643.75 a week earlier.
Silver declined to $28.58 an ounce from $29.90. On the London Platinum and Palladium Market, platinum fell to $1,466 an ounce from $1,530. Palladium slumped to $605 an ounce from $663.
BASE METALS: Prices were lower across the board. “The list of factors weighing on the metal markets is becoming longer and longer,” Commerzbank said.
“Chinese figures ... have once again proved to be surprisingly negative. We remain sceptical and expect the price correction among metals to continue over the next few weeks. 
By late Friday on the London Metal Exchange, copper for delivery in three months dropped to $7,992 a tonne from $8,173 a week earlier. Three-month aluminium fell to $2,038 a tonne from $2,074.  Three-month lead slipped to $2,065 a tonne from $2,089. Three-month tin slid to $20,300 a tonne from $21,575. Three-month nickel retreated to $17,057 a tonne from $17,456. Three-month zinc sank to $1,931 a tonne from $1,991.
COCOA: Cocoa futures were fairly steady due to tight supplyn.
The International Cocoa Organization this week forecast a 7.0-percent drop in 2011-12 cocoa production to 4.0 million tonnes.
By Friday on LIFFE, London’s futures exchange, cocoa for delivery in July dipped to £1,534 a tonne from £1,542 a week earlier. In New York on the NYBOT-ICE, cocoa for July edged up to $2,315 a tonne from $2,314.
COFFEE: Coffee prices were mixed. By Friday on NYBOT-ICE, Arabica for delivery in July fell to 176.35 US cents a pound from 177.05 cents a week earlier. On LIFFE, Robusta for delivery in July climbed to $2,101 a tonne from $2,006.
SUGAR: Sugar hit 20-month lows on the prospect of a large global surplus. By Friday on LIFFE, the price of a tonne of white sugar for delivery in August dropped to $553.60 from $568 a week earlier. On NYBOT-ICE, the price of unrefined sugar for July fell to 20.31 US cents a pound from 20.93 cents.
RUBBER: Rubber prices retreated amid weak market sentiment.  By Friday, the Malaysian Rubber Board’s benchmark SMR20 dropped to 348.45 US cents a kilo from 360.90 cents the previous Friday.