Oil price breaks above $100; copper, tin hit record highs

4th February 2011, Comments 0 comments

Brent crude surged above $100 this week, while copper and tin futures struck record highs as a cocktail of violent unrest in Egypt and strong Chinese demand for raw materials fuelled investor appetite.

Commodities were also bolstered by upbeat manufacturing data from Germany and the United States that sparked hope of a strengthening global economic recovery. Sugar futures soared as cyclone Yasi bore down on Australia.

OIL: Prices stood above the key $100 mark in London on Monday for the first time in more than two years and went on to surpass $103 a barrel as the market was hit by concerns over the impact of Egypt unrest on global energy supplies.

Brent oil blazed a trail to $103.37 on Thursday -- reaching the highest level since September 26, 2008. However, the market remains far below record highs of above $147 that were hit in July 2008 on supply disruption fears.

Crude futures spiked higher on the back of violent protests in Egypt that have raised serious concerns about the security of energy supplies travelling via the Suez canal to the West.

Egyptian protestors massed on Friday for sweeping "departure day" demonstrations, in an attempt to force President Hosni Mubarak to quit after he said he would like to step down but fears chaos would result.

Tens of thousands filled Cairo's central Tahrir Square, the epicentre of the 11 straight days of protests that have shaken the pillars of Mubarak's three-decade rule, on the Muslim day of rest.

"Oil markets are still on edge regarding possible worsening of turmoil centred on Egypt," said Brenda Sullivan, an analyst at Sucden brokers.

While Egypt is not a major crude producer, the country is home to the Suez Canal, which carries about 2.4 million barrels daily, roughly equal to Iraq's output.

"Thus far transit through Egypt has not been seen to have been affected, but the risk to transport as well as the risk of supply disruptions in other nations in the region are likely to continue as a major factor in the energy markets for some time," added Sullivan.

Traders are also concerned about the wider ramifications of the events in Egypt on the oil-rich but politically volatile Middle East.

Research house Capital Economics said oil prices were also being buoyed by strong global energy demand.

"The bulk of the rise in oil prices over the last few months reflects buoyant global demand rather than uncertainty in the Middle East," it said in a research note.

Analysts meanwhile expect the spread in the price between Brent crude and the benchmark New York contract to widen further because of oversupply in the US port of Cushing, Oklahoma.

By Friday afternoon on London's Intercontinental Exchange, Brent North Sea crude for delivery in March leapt to $101.60 a barrel from $99.34 a week earlier.

On the New York Mercantile Exchange, Texas light sweet crude for March delivery jumped to $90.73 a barrel from $88.75.

BASE METALS: Copper prices topped $10,000 for the first time and went on to hit a record high $10,100 a tonne Friday on growing worldwide economic optimism and concerns about the impact of an Australian cyclone on stretched supplies.

"Copper prices continue to soar," said Ian O'Sullivan, an analyst at traders Spread Co. in London.

"Cyclone Yasi in Australia has added pressure to copper prices, with (mining company) Xstrata evacuating the largest copper mine in Australia ahead of the storm.

"But the key drivers have been the strong PMI manufacturing numbers out of the US, Europe, and especially China, the world's largest consumer of copper."

Severe Tropical Cyclone Yasi, a top-category storm, hit the Australian coast early Thursday, packing destructive winds.

Copper is also being propelled by tight global supplies of the industrial metal, which is used in plumbing, heating, electrical and telecommunications wiring.

Tin meanwhile struck an all-time peak of $31,300 a tonne, driven by supply concerns in key producer Indonesia.

By late Friday on the London Metal Exchange (LME), copper for delivery in three months surged to $10,060 a tonne from $9,628 a week earlier.

Three-month aluminium jumped to $2,540 a tonne from $2,470.

Three-month lead grew to $2,577 a tonne from $2,460.

Three-month tin gained to $31,050 a tonne from $29,650 a week earlier.

Three-month zinc increased to $2,504 a tonne from $2,340.

Three-month nickel advanced to $28,185 a tonne from $26,890.

PRECIOUS METALS: Gold prices rebounded, helped by unrest in Egypt, with the metal viewed as a safe-haven investment.

The glamourous commodity had hit a record 1,431.25 dollars on December 7, also boosted by its safe-haven status as investors fretted over the eurozone debt crisis.

By late Friday on the London Bullion Market, gold grew to $1,355 an ounce from $1,334.50 a week earlier.

Silver rose to $28.91 an ounce from $26.68.

On the London Platinum and Palladium Market, platinum climbed to $1,838 an ounce from $1,784.

Palladium gained to $813 an ounce from $806.

SUGAR: Sugar futures reached a 30-year peak as cyclone Yasi prepared to strike Australia, the dollar weakened and oil prices extended gains above $100.

The price of unrefined sugar for delivery in March reached 36.08 US cents a pound on the New York Board of Trade -- the highest level since 1980 -- before profit-taking set in.

In London, a tonne of white sugar for March scored £857 on Wednesday -- the highest point since 1987.

"Amidst a welter of concern regarding potential damage caused in Australian cane growing areas by the approaching cyclone Yasi, a weaker dollar and high energy prices, sugar posted... 30 year highs," said Sucden analyst Nick Penney.

Sugar prices also benefited from a weaker dollar, which made the commodity cheaper for holders of other currencies, boosting demand.

Finally, oil's surge above $100 increased demand for ethanol, a cheaper version of gasoline, or motor fuel, that is made using cane sugar.

By Friday on the New York Board of Trade (NYBOT), the price of unrefined sugar for delivery in March fell to 32.81 US cents a pound from 34.12 cents a week earlier.

On LIFFE, London's futures exchange, the price of a tonne of white sugar for March dropped to £801.90 from £820.30 a week earlier.

GRAINS AND SOYA: Prices struck the highest levels since late 2008 on tight supply concerns, traders said.

By Friday on the Chicago Board of Trade, March-dated soyabean meal -- used in animal feed -- rose to $14.31 a bushel from $13.98 a week earlier.

Maize for delivery in March grew to $6.64 a bushel from $6.44.

Wheat for March increased to $8.52 from $8.25.

COCOA: Cocoa dipped amid lingering political uncertainty in key producer Ivory Coast.

"Prices should come under strong pressure as soon as the political situation eases in Ivory Coast," said analysts at Commerzbank.

By Friday on LIFFE, cocoa for March eased to £2,154 a tonne from £2,177 a week earlier.

On NYBOT, cocoa for delivery in March slipped to $3,279 a tonne from $3,298 a week earlier.

COFFEE: Coffee prices reached multi-year highs.

"The start of a fresh month has very likely seen some funds, flush with a new allocation of cash, finding its way into the London and New York coffee markets," said Sucden analyst Ralph Hawes.

By Friday on NYBOT, Arabica for delivery in March climbed to 250.20 US cents a pound from 244 cents a week earlier.

On LIFFE, Robusta for March rose to $2,218 a tonne from $2,124 a week earlier.


© 2011 AFP

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