Oil prices rally; metals mixed

12th June 2015, Comments 0 comments

World oil prices rallied this week, supported by a drop in US stockpiles, while traders on the metals markets took their lead from movements in the dollar and Chinese data.

OIL: Crude futures rallied as data showed a much bigger than expected drop in US crude inventories, while OPEC said demand would pick up.

Oil prices had surged more than two dollars Tuesday on expectations that the US inventory data would reveal a drop,

The Department of Energy indeed said that commercial stockpiles of US crude slumped by 6.8 million barrels last week to 470.6 million. Analysts' consensus forecast had been for a drop of 1.45 million, according to Bloomberg.

A drop in US stockpiles is seen as an indicator of healthy demand in the world's top crude consumer, supporting global prices.

OPEC meanwhile stuck to its forecast that oil demand will pick up this year but warned that over-supply may still keep a "ceiling" on crude prices, even as it kept on increasing its own output to a two-year high.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries stuck to its prediction of total oil demand in 2015 of 92.5 million barrels per day, up 1.18 mbpd from 2014.

Consumption is expected to pick up pace in the second half in line with a global economic rebound, the 12-country cartel said in its June monthly report.

OPEC, which has traditionally sought to defend price levels by cutting output if needed, dramatically switched strategy last November when it opted to leave its production target unchanged.

At its bi-annual production earlier this month, OPEC stuck to this strategy, keeping its output target unchanged at 30 million barrels per day.

This is seen as an attempt to maintain market share and put pressure on US shale oil producers, which need a higher oil price to be profitable than in traditional extraction methods -- a strategy that experts say has had some success.

Oil prices meanwhile fell at the end of the week as the International Energy Agency predicted that a recent surge in world crude demand was set to end.

World oil demand growth soared to a four-year high in the first three months of 2015, but the surge is unlikely to persist, the IEA said Thursday in its monthly report.

The strong growth, which reached 1.7 million barrels per day in the first quarter, was underpinned by an economic recovery, a European winter that was colder than the previous year's, and lower crude prices which spurred consumption.

"However, there are doubts that this trio will persist" in the second half of 2015, said the IEA.

Heating needs are not expected to return to such levels and crude prices have also started to rise and are therefore likely to stymie demand.

Oil fell Friday but still managed to show a sizeable gain over the week, despite the dollar rising as traders grew concerned about Greece's troubled debt negotiations, traders said.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Thursday withdrew from eleventh-hour talks in Brussels, saying an agreement remained far-off after a five-month stalemate with Greece's anti-austerity government, which faces being unable to pay huge debts at the end of the month.

Greece must reach a compromise with its creditors -- the IMF, European Commission and European Central Bank -- before the end of the month to unlock much-needed cash to service its debts. Failure to do so will lead it to default and possibly exit the eurozone.

By Friday on London's Intercontinental Exchange, Brent North Sea crude for delivery in July jumped to $64.35 a barrel from $61.15 a week earlier.

On the New York Mercantile Exchange, West Texas Intermediate (WTI) or light sweet crude for July increased to $59.99 a barrel from $57.54 a week earlier.

PRECIOUS METALS: Gold prices won support from its status as a haven investment amid heightened market tensions over Greece.

Analysts expect the precious metal to continue to win support from the buying of gold by central banks.

"We expect official purchases to be one of several factors that boost gold prices in the next year or two, despite the prospect of tighter US monetary policy and renewed strength in the US dollar against other major currencies," said analysts at Capital Economics in a client note.

A strong dollar makes commodities such as gold priced in the US unit more expensive for holders of rival currencies, with the usual result that prices drop.

Silver, used also in industry, dropped on weak Chinese demand prospects, traders said.

By Friday on the London Bullion Market, the price of gold gained to $1,182.80 an ounce from $1,164.60 a week earlier.

Silver fell to $15.93 an ounce from $16.15.

On the London Platinum and Palladium Market, platinum edged up to $1,095 an ounce from $1,092.

Palladium fell to $739 an ounce from $751.

BASE METALS: Base or industrial metals prices were mixed as traders responded to Chinese data.

Growth in China's industrial production hit a three-month high in May, figures showed Thursday, while expansion in retail sales rebounded from a nine-year low in cautiously positive signs for the world's second-largest economy.

"The data suggest that although activity remains subdued, recent policy support is now helping to stabilise growth," said Julian Evans-Pritchard, China economist at Capital Economics, referring to measures including central bank interest rate cuts.

The results came as China's economy has continued to slow in 2015 after growing at its weakest pace -- 7.4 percent -- in nearly a quarter of a century last year.

By Friday on the London Metal Exchange, copper for delivery in three months slipped to $5,898.50 a tonne from $5,919.50 a week earlier.

Three-month aluminium grew to $1,748.50 a tonne from $1,730.

Three-month lead slid to $1,852.50 a tonne from $1,913.

Three-month tin declined to $14,940 a tonne from $15,210.

Three-month nickel edged up to $13,035 a tonne from $12,905.

Three-month zinc dipped to $2,112.50 a tonne from $2,137.50.

COCOA: Prices won support from tight supply worries in Ghana, the world's second biggest cocoa producer behind Ivory Coast.

By Friday on LIFFE, London's futures exchange, cocoa for delivery in July stood at £2,094 a tonne, unchanged from the previous week.

On the ICE Futures US exchange, cocoa for July rose to $3,109 a tonne from $3,092.

SUGAR: The market hit fresh six-year lows.

Traders "seem to be roundly blaming the weakness" of Brazil's currency, said Sucden brokers analyst Thomas Kujawa.

A weak real encourages farmers in key market Brazil to increase the amount of sugar exports priced in dollars, weighing on prices.

Sugar on Thursday reached six-year lows at $344.20 a tonne and 11.61 US cents a pound.

By Friday on LIFFE, a tonne of white sugar for delivery in August fell to $346.80 from $351.20 a week earlier.

On ICE Futures US, unrefined sugar for July dropped to 11.67 US cents a pound from 12.09 US cents.

COFFEE: Prices retreated on receding concerns about a potential supply deficit.

On ICE Futures US, Arabica for delivery in July slid to 131.60 US cents a pound from 135.65 cents a week earlier.

On LIFFE, Robusta for July eased to $1,711 a tonne from $1,722.

RUBBER: Prices declined on a slowdown in demand, including in key market China, traders said.

On Friday, the Malaysian Rubber Board's benchmark SMR20 fell to 158.95 US cents a kilo from 162.90 cents a week ago.

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© 2015 AFP

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