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AAP

2013-02-01

A summary of trading in key commodities markets overseas:

ENERGY

Oil prices diverged as markets focused on US jobs data and after the market moved on a Federal Reserve monetary policy announcement as well as unrest in the Middle East region.

Brent North Sea crude for delivery in March had climbed 25 cents to $US115.49 a barrel by 0653 AEDT.

New York's main contract, light sweet crude for March, meanwhile closed 45 US cents lower at $US97.49 a barrel after reaching a four-month peak at $US98.24 on Wednesday.

PRECIOUS METALS

Gold prices retreated from one-week highs as some investors locked in profits on the recent rally while others took a cautious stance ahead of upcoming employment data.

The most-actively traded contract, for April delivery, on Thursday closed at $US1662.0, down $US19.60 a troy ounce on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Gold prices settled at a one-week high of $US1,681.60 on Wednesday after disappointing US economic-growth data caught the market by surprise.

Analysts at Deutsche Bank said Wednesday's gold rally was "exacerbated" by what is known as a short squeeze.

Traders were ill-prepared for the disappointing data, with many investors holding bearish short positions ahead of the release.

BASE METALS

Base metals closed lower on the London Metal Exchange (LME) as investors cashed in on recent gains, following a mixed bag of US economic data.

At the PM kerb close on Thursday, LME three-month copper was down 0.7 per cent at $US8,165 a metric. Aluminum was also 0.7 per cent lower at $US2,090/ton.

US personal income rose more than expected in December, increasing 2.6 per cent compared to an expected one per cent gain.

Initial claims for jobless benefits were higher than expected in the week to January 26, however, rising to 368,000.

Meanwhile, personal spending in the US increased by 0.2 per cent in December, in line with economists' forecasts.

The mixed data dented sentiment toward the growth-sensitive industrial metals and prompted some investors to take profits on earlier gains, said a London-based broker.

Copper hit a near-four-month high at $US8,291.25/ton earlier Thursday, buoyed by the US Federal Reserve's reiteration of its commitment to open-ended stimulus measures.