Gold hits new record above $1,800 amid eurozone debt storm
Gold hit a record peak this week as investors sought shelter from slumping equities amid unfounded rumours of a France credit rating downgrade and worries over Societe Generale's Greek debt exposure.
However, the French government categorically denied that it might be the next major country to lose its cherished AAA status and the ratings agencies said they did not plan to downgrade. And Societe Generale denied it was facing trouble over its exposure to Greece.
Many other commodities sank in value on the back of mounting concern that the eurozone debt crisis and weak US economy could help push the world back into recession.
PRECIOUS METALS: Gold surged overnight Wednesday to a record $1,814.95 per ounce, extending its recent record-breaking run as European debt woes flared up, one week after Washington's historic credit rating downgrade by Standard and Poor's.
"Panic among market players emerged again ... amid speculation about a downgrade of France's credit rating and the nosedive on global financial markets continued," said Commerzbank analyst Michaela Kuhl.
"Gold was under strong demand again as a store of value in such a climate and has therefore soared to a record high."
Gold, whose twin drivers are investment and jewellery, is widely regarded by investors as a safe place to park cash in uncertain economic times.
A technical sell-off began on Thursday, and volatility was dampened after smaller traders were crimped when the CME exchange hiked margins by 22 percent on contracts.
By late Friday on the London Bullion Market, gold jumped to $1,736 an ounce from $1,658 the previous week.
Silver eased to $38.29 an ounce from $39.24.
On the London Platinum and Palladium Market, platinum rose to $1,800 an ounce from $1,709.
Palladium rose to $747 an ounce from $742.
OIL: Crude oil prices finished the week on a upbeat note as traders eyed better-than-expected US retail sales data that suggested the economy might not be in such bad shape after all that send stock markets rising.
"Crude oil prices have rebounded on the back of a weaker US dollar, and firmer equity markets," said Michael Hewson of CMC Markets.
By late on Friday on London's Intercontinental Exchange, Brent North Sea crude for delivery in September had risen to $108.48 a barrel from $106.93 a week earlier.
On the New York Mercantile Exchange, West Texas Intermediate (WTI) or light sweet crude for September climbed to $86.63 a barrel from $84.70 the previous week.
Crude rode the same rollercoaster as global stock markets this past week, with traders concerned about a global slowdown hitting demand.
Oil had rallied after the US Federal Reserve indicated that it would keep interest rates on hold near zero for at least two years.
At the same time, European Central Bank intervention appears to have calmed the debt market somewhat for the government bonds of Spain and other debt-laden peripheral eurozone nations.
"Oil prices have rallied by $10 per barrel off their lows, as the market begins to price in a less apocalyptic macroeconomic scenario and to row back from the undershooting of prices below sustainable levels seen over the past week," said Barclays Capital analysts Paul Horsnell and Amrita Sen.
"Even with a reduction in GDP growth rate expectations, the oil market is likely to stay in deficit in 2011 and will require more OPEC oil in order to balance," the added.
BASE METALS: Base or industrial metals were not spared from the market convulsions, with prices collapsing before rallying towards the end of the week.
Copper sank more than seven percent Monday and Tuesday to $8,446 a tonne, its lowest level since December 1, before climbing to between $8,500 and $9,000.
"A similar story has been seen across the metals", said William Adams of Fast Markets.
"Volatility is likely to remain high across the markets as there remains a massive amount of uncertainty ... This evokes memories of the banking and credit crises of 2008 so we would expect the markets to remain on tenterhooks."
Barclays Capital analyst Gayle Berry said there was growing evidence to suggest lower prices were attracting consumer buying.
"In copper in particular earlier this week the sharp decline in prices attracted Chinese buying..," she said.
By late Friday on the London Metal Exchange (LME), copper for delivery in three months sank to $8,886 a tonne from $9,189 the previous week.
Three-month aluminium fell to $2,421 a tonne from $2,460.
Three-month lead dipped to $2,390 a tonne from $2,422.
Three-month tin decreased to $24,600 a tonne from $24,650.
Three-month zinc slid to $2,195 a tonne from $2,274.
Three-month nickel dropped to $21,690 a tonne from $23,085.
COCOA: Prices were mixed on expectations of large supplies in Ghana and Ivory Coast, which are the two main cocoa producing nations, and the effects of falls on the US stock markets and the fluctuating dollar.
On Thursday a tonne of cocoa hit its lowest price since the beginning of January at $2,846.
By Friday on LIFFE, London's futures exchange, cocoa for delivery in September rose to £1,849 a tonne from £1,845 the previous week.
In New York on the NYBOT-ICE, cocoa for September fell to $2,870 a tonne from $2,945.
SUGAR: Prices mimicked the same volatile movements of other commodities.
An end of week bounce was strengthened after top exporter Brazil announced weaker than expected sugarcane production with producers' association Unica lowering its 2011-12 harvest provision by four percent.
By Friday on NYBOT-ICE, the price of unrefined sugar for delivery in October dropped to 27.63 US cents a pound from 27.85 cents the previous week.
On LIFFE, the price of a tonne of white sugar for October slid to £733.60 compared with £737.60 the previous week.
COFFEE: Coffee futures fluctuated through the week, sensitive to fears about the strength of the US economy.
After hitting a 2011 low, prices went up from Thursday, aided by a general improvement on the markets and "concerns over key countries' production levels," specialists The Public Ledger said.
The International Coffee Organization said in its latest report that world production in the 2010-2011 crop year, which is expected to be around 133.3 million bags, remains the highest level ever recorded.
Exports for the October to June period were upt 15.9 percent to 80.7 million bags, it added.
By Friday on NYBOT-ICE, Arabica for delivery in September stood at 240.75 US cents a pound, from 240.10 US cents the previous week.
On LIFFE, Robusta for September changed hands at $2,253 a tonne from $2,048 a tonne.
RUBBER: Rubber prices fell for the second straight week amid uncertainties of the global economy.
The Malaysian Rubber Board's benchmark SMR20 fell 458.60 US cents a kilo from 459.55 US cents the previous week.
GRAINS AND SOYA: Wheat and corn prices crept ahead on concerns over US yields.
By Friday on the Chicago Board of Trade, maize for delivery in September climbed to $7.02 a bushel from $6.93 a week earlier.
Wheat for September rose to $7.13 from $6.79.
November-dated soyabean meal -- used in animal feed -- slipped to $13.30 a bushel from $13.33.
© 2011 AFP