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LONDON, Feb 15 AFP

February 16 2013, 06:20AM

Oil and metals prices retreated this week amid quiet trading owing to Asia's Lunar New Year holiday celebrations, while dealers also paused for breath ahead of a key G20 meeting.

A billion-plus Asians have enjoyed a week of festivities to mark the Year of the Snake, dampening demand for raw materials in China, the world's second biggest economy after the United States.

Meanwhile finance ministers from G20 states gathered on Friday in Moscow for a meeting aimed at reassuring markets that the world's economic powers would not slug it out in "currency wars" to boost national growth.

The troubles of the debt-ridden eurozone weren't centrestage for the first time in several international meetings, with the main concern Japan's controversial plan for "monetary easing" that weakens the yen.

OIL: Brent crude retreated from nine-month highs above $US119 a barrel reached a week ago on healthy economic data in the United States and China - the world's two biggest energy consuming nations.

"Brent has been unable to achieve the nine-month high of a good $119 per barrel it recorded last week," said Commerzbank analyst Carsten Fritsch.

"The price has been stopped in its tracks by the International Energy Agency's unexpected downward revision of its demand forecast."

The IEA, representing oil consumers, trimmed its world oil demand forecast for 2013 on Wednesday.

It said the marginal cut of 85,000 barrels a day was in line with the prospect for a slowdown forecast by the International Monetary Fund, which last month cut its world growth estimate for 2013 to 3.5 per cent from 3.6 per cent.

On Tuesday, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) raised its estimates for global oil demand this year, citing signs of a recovery in the global economy.

OPEC, which accounts for more than a third of global oil supplies, expects 89.68 million barrels of oil to be sold a day, up from 89.55 million estimated a month ago.

By Friday on London's Intercontinental Exchange, Brent North Sea crude for April stood at $US117.69 a barrel compared with $US118.96 for the March contract the previous week.

On the New York Mercantile Exchange, West Texas Intermediate (WTI) or light sweet crude for delivery in March rose to $US96.77 a barrel from $US96.15 a week earlier.

PRECIOUS METALS: The price of gold hit a six-month low point at $US1,598.23 an ounce on Friday, while palladium struck $US777 an ounce, the highest level in 17 months, amid falling production in South Africa.

Gold "prices have encountered a fragile floor in the absence of demand from China," said Barclays analyst Suki Cooper.

Meanwhile global demand for gold fell last year in its first tumble since 2009 as demand in leading market India slid, narrowing the gap with second-biggest buyer China, the World Gold Council said Thursday.

Demand for the precious metal was 4,405.5 tonnes for the full year, down 3.85 per cent from 4,582.3 tonnes a year earlier, the WGC report said.

But in value terms, gold demand in 2012 increased to a record high of $US236.4 billion ($A229.5 billion), as the average price for the precious metal rose.

A decline in consumer demand offset an increase in demand from institutional investors and central banks, the report said.

For the full year, India's gold demand fell 12 per cent from a year earlier - despite improved demand in the final quarter - to 864.2 tonnes.

By late Friday on the London Bullion Market, gold dropped to $US1,612.25 an ounce from $US1,668.25 a week earlier.

Silver fell to $US30.18 an ounce from $US31.52.

On the London Platinum and Palladium Market, platinum slid to $US1,676 an ounce from $US1,714.

Palladium rose to $US754 an ounce from $US746.

BASE METALS: Base or industrial metals mostly fell.

"We are now in a situation where sentiment is less bearish and there is some optimism that (economic) recoveries in China and the US will lead to a stronger demand - but confidence is still not strong enough to suggest that a bull market lies ahead," said analysts at brokers Sucden Financial.

By late Friday on the London Metal Exchange, copper for delivery in three months fell to $US8,218 a tonne from $US8,279 a week earlier.

Three-month aluminium grew to $US2,154 a tonne from $US2,116.

Three-month lead eased to $US2,404 a tonne from $US2,419.

Three-month tin slid to $US24,850 a tonne from $US24,955.

Three-month nickel retreated to $US18,220 a tonne from $US18,398.

Three-month zinc dipped to $US2,168 a tonne from $US2,202.

COCOA: Cocoa futures hit fresh multi-month lows owing to an ample supply situation.

By Friday on LIFFE, London's futures exchange, cocoa for delivery in March dropped to 1,425 a tonne from 1,455 a week earlier.

On New York's NYBOT-ICE exchange, cocoa for May traded at $US2,149 a tonne compared with $US2,243 for the March contract a week earlier.

COFFEE: Coffee prices dropped despite tight supply concerns.

By Friday on LIFFE, Robusta for May delivery stood at $US2,055 a tonne compared with $US2,136 for the March contract a week earlier.

On NYBOT-ICE, Arabica for delivery in May traded at 140.50 US cents a pound compared with 140.80 US cents for the March contract a week earlier.

SUGAR: Sugar futures hit two-and-half-year lows in New York.

"This weakness has been driven by ample supply, as good weather and increased investment in agricultural machinery has boosted harvests," said Tom Pugh, analyst at the Capital Economics research group.

By Friday on LIFFE, the price of a tonne of white sugar for delivery in May stood at $US491.30 compared with $US490 for the March contract a week earlier.

On NYBOT-ICE, the price of unrefined sugar for May traded at 17.85 US cents a pound compared with 18.19 cents for the March contract the previous week.

GRAINS AND SOYA: Maize, wheat and soya prices all fell.

By Friday on the Chicago Board of Trade, maize for delivery in March dipped to $US6.99 a bushel from $US7.09 a week earlier.

March-dated soyabean meal - used in animal feed - decreased to $US14.24 a bushel from $US14.52.

Wheat for March dropped to $US7.41 a bushel from $US7.56.

RUBBER: Prices slid on weak demand from tyre makers, traders said.

The Malaysian Rubber Board's benchmark SMR20 dropped to 305.75 US cents a kilo from 310.15 cents the previous week.