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2012-12-11

A summary of trading in key commodities markets overseas:

ENERGY

Benchmark US crude gave up early gains on a surprise expansion of German exports and signs of increased oil consumption in China to finish lower.

Concerns about the so-called fiscal cliff in the US continued to dog traders and investors.

Benchmark crude fell 37 cents to finish at $US85.56 a barrel in New York.

Brent crude, used to price international varieties of oil, rose 31 cents to end at $US107.33 per barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

The German government said exports from Europe's biggest economy rose slightly in October after losing ground the month before. They were 10.6 per cent higher than October a year ago.

In China, the world's second largest economy after the US, crude imports last month were the highest in half a year.

And for the first time, more than 10 million barrels per day were refined, noted Tradition Energy's Addison Armstrong.

The oil data was released a day after another set of figures showed that China's industrial production and retail sales exceeded expectations in November.

Meanwhile President Barack Obama was in Detroit looking for more public support to raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans, a day after he and House Speaker John Boehner met for the first time to talk about ways to avoid the fiscal cliff.

BASE METALS

Base metals on the London Metal Exchange closed considerably higher amid a bullish cocktail of improved sentiment, strong Chinese data and a firmer euro.

Thinly traded tin surging to a seven-month high as technical levels were breached.

At the close of open outcry trading, the flagship LME three-month copper contract closed 1.3 per cent higher at $US8,135 a metric ton.

Lead performed consistently strongly, closing 3.8 per cent higher at $US2,299/ton, with analysts tipping the breakout to target $US2,335/ton.

Tin closed 6.2 per cent higher at $US23,090/ton, having earlier in the session hit $US23,120/ton, its highest price since April 5.

Analysts said tin's comparatively sparse trading volumes exaggerated the move somewhat.

PRECIOUS METALS

Gold and silver prices advanced as some investors stocked up on precious metals ahead of the US Federal Reserve's policy-setting meeting while others sought a haven from concerns about Europe's political upheaval.

The most actively traded gold contract, for February delivery, rose $US8.90, or 0.5 per cent, to settle at $US1,714.40 a troy ounce on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange.

The Federal Open Market Committee is due to hold a two-day policy-setting meeting starting Tuesday.

Some precious metals investors hope to see the central bank extend "Operation Twist," its inflation-resistant Treasury purchasing program, while others speculate that a new easing effort will be announced.

"If the Fed continues to be accommodative, I think we will see gold moving higher from here, and silver likewise," said Matt Zeman, head of trading at Kingsview Financial.

Silver prices followed gold's cues, with the most active contract, for March delivery, rising 24.6 cents, or 0.7 per cent, to settle at $US33.377 a troy ounce on the Comex.