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AAP

2013-02-28

A summary of trading in key commodities markets overseas:

ENERGY

World oil prices were mixed after the United States reported a smaller-than-expected rise in its crude stockpiles and as markets tracked uncertainty over Italy's political future.

Brent North Sea crude for delivery in April dipped four cents to $112.67 a barrel in late London deals.

New York's main contract, light sweet crude for April climbed 40 cents to $93.03 a barrel.

The US Department of Energy on Wednesday said that American crude inventories rose by 1.1 million barrels last week, less than half the amount predicted by analysts.

PRECIOUS METALS

Gold futures settled below $US1,600, amid renewed concerns the Federal Reserve would roll back its monetary easing measures sooner than investors expect.

The most actively traded contract, for April delivery, on Wednesday fell $US19.80, or 1.2 per cent, to settle at $US1,595.70 a troy ounce on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Gold prices retreated below the psychologically important $US1,600 mark, erasing much of Tuesday's gains, after Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said the central bank may review its exit strategy "some time soon".

Investors have flocked to gold in recent years, as some feared the Fed's bond-buying policies would trigger higher inflation and sought to fireproof their wealth against such risks.

Gold is widely considered a hedge against inflation because it tends to keep its value better than other assets during periods of high inflation.

Stronger US equities added to the pressure on gold.

BASE METALS

Base metals are little changed at the close of London Metal Exchange trading (LME), as investors found little direction in the day's economic news and data.

At the PM kerb close on Wednesday, LME three-month copper was up just 0.1 per cent at $US7,870 a metric ton. Tin held up the best of the complex, ending the session 0.8 per cent higher at $US23,475/ton.

US data were mixed Wednesday, with durable goods orders falling 5.2 per cent in January from December, driven by a sharp drop in defence and civilian aircraft spending.

Non-defence capital goods orders excluding aircraft -- a key measure of business investment -- rose 6.3 per cent, however, the best increase in more than a year.

Separately, pending US home sales rose 4.5 per cent in January from the previous month, to the highest level since April 2010, better than expectations for a two per cent rise.