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SYDNEY, Dec 28 AAP

December 28 2012, 08:24AM

A summary of trading in key commodities markets overseas overnight:

ENERGY

Oil prices declined Thursday amid doubts that an 11th-hour deal on the "fiscal cliff" crisis could be reached by a rapidly approaching end-of-year deadline.

New York's main contract, West Texas Intermediate (WTI) for February delivery, slipped 11 cents to settle at $90.87 a barrel.

Brent North Sea crude for February delivery dipped 33 cents to $110.74 a barrel in London trade.

With the clock ticking, the White House and Republican lawmakers have yet to reach a deal to keep the United States from falling off the so-called fiscal cliff, a combination of steep tax hikes and drastic spending cuts set to kick in next month.

President Barack Obama cut short his family Christmas break in Hawaii to return to Washington in a last-ditch attempt at reaching a compromise.

Crude oil prices were "being taken down on what appears to be the growing eventuality that the US is going to go over the fiscal cliff," said analyst John Kilduff of Again Capital.

"There was "no doubt that the tax hikes and the spending cuts that will roll automatically will be a real drag on the economy for the us," he added.

Experts warn that going over the "fiscal cliff" could take the United States back into recession. And that could hurt oil demand in the world's biggest consumer of crude.

METALS

Gold prices edged higher after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said that it appeared that the government would miss the deadline for avoiding the "fiscal cliff." That's boosting demand for the metal as a safe haven.

Gold for February delivery rose $3 to $1,663.70 an ounce, a gain of 0.2 per cent. Gold started the day lower before Reid's comments. Demand for gold was also bolstered by a report showing consumer confidence fell to its lowest level since August.

Silver, copper and palladium also advanced in other metals trading.

Silver for March delivery rose nearly rose 20.6 cents to $US30.244 an ounce.

Silver for March delivery rose 20.60 cents to $30.24 an ounce, a gain of 0.7 per cent. March copper gained 0.35 cents, or 0.1 per cent, to $3.6010 a pound.