Brent oil tops $61 as outlook brightens
Brent oil prices soared above $61 this week for the first time this year, aided by upbeat news on Ukraine and Greece and by rebounding economic growth in eurozone powerhouse Germany.
Elsewhere in commodity markets, India overtook China as the world's top consumer of gold, according to newly published industry data.
OIL: Crude oil prices rallied above $61 on easing tensions surrounding Greece and Ukraine, and as the global economic outlook brightened.
"Prices managed to climb ... as investors reacted positively to the announcement of a ceasefire between Russia and Ukraine after talks mediated by Germany and France proved successful," said Sucden analyst Myrto Sokou.
"Appetite for risk assets was boosted further by the progress between Greece and its creditors regarding any potential renegotiation of the bailout package."
European stock markets also jumped higher Friday, with Germany's main index breaching 11,000 points for the first time as Greece appeared closer to a possible overhaul of its international bailout.
Sentiment was given another boost as official data showed the German economy expanded surprisingly strongly in the fourth quarter of 2014, driven by robust consumer spending.
In the period from October to December, German gross domestic product expanded by 0.7 percent, bringing full-year growth to 1.6 percent.
Economic activity in the eurozone also picked up slightly, expanding by 0.3 percent in the fourth quarter and 0.9 for all of 2014.
Crude futures had risen sharply on Thursday, gaining almost $2.50 on reports that leading petroleum producers are curtailing investment.
In a topsy-turvy week for the oil market, prices fell sharply on Wednesday with New York crude sliding below $49, as swelling US inventories added to the global supply glut.
The US stockpiles report showed crude reserves standing at an 80-year high for this time of the year.
Oil prices have been under pressure for months, plunging about 60 percent to just over $40 between June and late January.
However, they have recovered slightly in recent weeks as the number of drilling rigs has fallen and oil companies such as Total and Royal Dutch Shell trimmed some investment.
Crude futures also shot higher last week as data revealed production cuts that could curb the global supply glut.
By Friday on London's Intercontinental Exchange, Brent North Sea crude for delivery in April leapt to $61.19 a barrel from $58.08 for the March contract one week earlier.
On the New York Mercantile Exchange, West Texas Intermediate or light sweet crude for March rallied to $52.70 a barrel compared with $50.48.
- India takes gold crown -
PRECIOUS METALS: Gold prices fell as many investors shunned the safe haven asset amid easing global tensions, while India overtook China as the top world consumer of the metal.
"Gold has come under pressure from various sources, not least due to the lack of safe haven demand," noted analyst Fawad Razaqzada at trading site Forex.com.
China lost its place to India as the world's biggest gold consumer in 2014, sector data showed Thursday, hit by collapsing jewellery demand after one year in the top spot.
Indian gold demand sank 14 percent to 842.7 tonnes last year from 2013, but Chinese demand slumped 38 percent to 814 tonnes, the World Gold Council (WGC) said in a report.
Overall gold demand meanwhile dropped four percent last year to 3,924 tonnes compared with a record amount in 2013, pushed lower as Chinese jewellery demand tumbled by a third.
That marked the lowest overall level in five years and was also the third successive annual decline for the precious metal, whose two main drivers are jewellery and investment buying.
By Friday on the London Bullion Market, the price of gold dropped to $1,232.50 an ounce from $1,241 a week earlier.
Silver slid to $16.86 an ounce from $17.22.
On the London Platinum and Palladium Market, platinum decreased to $1,201 an ounce from $1,239.
Palladium was unchanged at $786 an ounce.
BASE METALS: Base or industrial metal prices also won a boost from easing worries over Greece and Ukraine, and bright economic growth in Germany and the eurozone.
"High levels of risk appetite among market participants significantly drove up equity markets and -- in conjunction with a sharp increase in oil prices -- also contributed to higher metal prices," said Commerzbank analysts.
Investors still need reassuring over China's economic slowdown and stubborn concerns over the potential exit of Greece from the eurozone, dealers said.
Data showed inflation in China had tumbled to 0.8 percent in January, down sharply from 1.5 percent in December and the lowest since November 2009.
The figures, which come despite an interest rate cut in November, are the latest to highlight problems in the world's number two economy and raise the spectre of possible deflation.
"For base metal investors to become more bullish and for consumer buying to step back up a gear, we feel that we would need to see the worries about China's slowing economy extinguished, and the threat of Greece exiting the eurozone subside," said UniCredit analysts.
"This point may be some weeks or even months away," they added.
By Friday on the London Metal Exchange, copper for delivery in three months rose to $5,717.50 a tonne from $5,677.50 a week earlier.
Three-month aluminium dipped to $1,847 a tonne from $1,878.50.
Three-month lead increased to $1,840 a tonne from $1,795.80.
Three-month tin declined to $17,445 a tonne from $18,225.
Three-month nickel gained to $14,710 a tonne from $14,480.
Three-month zinc advanced to $2,105.50 a tonne from $2,080.
- Cocoa market sweetens -
COCOA: Futures gained ground on weather-linked supply concerns in key producing nations in West Africa.
"The prospect of a weaker West African mid-crop as compared with last year is causing cocoa prices to rise," said Commerzbank analysts.
The dry Harmattan wind is strong this year and has blown not only leaves but also many flowers which develop into cocoa fruits from the trees.
The seasonal Harmattan wind is a dry breeze packed with dust which blows across West Africa from the Sahara.
Ghana and Ivory Coast are the two biggest producers of the commodity that is mostly used to make chocolate.
By Friday on LIFFE, London's futures exchange, cocoa for delivery in July rose to £1,970 a tonne compared with £1,911 for the May contract a week earlier.
On the ICE Futures US exchange, cocoa for May climbed to $2,930 a tonne from $2,777 the previous week.
SUGAR: Prices held firm in quiet trade.
By Friday on LIFFE, the price of a tonne of white sugar for delivery in May edged up to $391.40 from $382.50 for the March contract a week earlier.
On ICE Futures US, the price of unrefined sugar for May rose to 14.84 US cents a pound from 14.57 US cents.
COFFEE: Prices enjoyed mixed fortunes as traders also eyed prevailing weather conditions in key producers.
"Crops have had beneficial precipitation in recent weeks, but will need regular rainfall to ensure good production this year after the drought of last year," said Jack Scoville, analyst at Price Futures Group.
By Friday on ICE Futures US, Arabica for delivery in May fell slightly to 166.15 US cents a pound from 166.60 cents a week earlier.
On LIFFE, Robusta for May rallied to $2,022 a tonne from $1,927 for the March contract the previous week.
RUBBER: Kuala Lumpur prices drifted lower in subdued trade ahead of next week's Chinese New Year celebrations.
The Malaysian Rubber Board's benchmark SMR20 on Friday fell to 141.80 US cents a kilo from 141.85 US cents the previous week.
© 2015 AFP