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Commodity markets mostly fall

Published on August 01, 2014

Commodities mostly sank this week, with many hit by sliding equities, demand concerns, ample supplies, geopolitical worries in the Middle East and Ukraine and Argentina's default, dealers said.

Star performers coffee and cocoa, however, forged significant peaks on frenzied speculative buying interest, they added.

Heading into the weekend, traders digested Friday’s tepid non-farm payrolls data in the United States, the world’s largest economy and a major consumer of most raw materials.

– Crude oil slumps –

OIL: Crude oil prices in New York tumbled to their lowest level since early February, with the market awash with supplies, dealers said.

New York’s light sweet crude sank Friday to $97.09 per barrel, last seen on February 7, and London’s Brent oil touched the lowest level since mid-July.

“Crude oil prices have suffered as of late due to ample supply and weak demand fundamentals,” said Chloe Bradley at British-based energy consultancy Inenco.

“African and European supply is expected to outweigh demand for this year, offering bearish sentiment to contracts going forward.

“Strong supply fundamentals have resulted in an overall bearish trend for the crude oil market throughout this week.”

She added: “The prospect of healthy supply levels from Africa and Europe offsets political tension in Russia (and) Ukraine.”

Commerzbank analysts agreed that investors were focussed on adequate supply levels.

“Despite all the sources of geopolitical crisis, there is ample physical supply on the European oil market at present,” they wrote in a note to clients.

“The supply of oil from west Africa is playing a major part in this: it is of comparable quality to the shale oil produced in the US and is thus no longer in demand there.

“Instead, this oil is increasingly flooding the European market. Brent can be expected to remain under pressure until such time as the geopolitical crises actually give rise to supply outages.”

By Friday on London’s Intercontinental Exchange, Brent North Sea crude for delivery in September had fallen to $104.85 per barrel from $107.78 one week earlier.

On the New York Mercantile Exchange, West Texas Intermediate or light sweet crude for August dropped to $97.30 a barrel from $101.66.

PRECIOUS METALS: Gold and other precious metals retreated as many traders opted to cash in recent gains, pushing prices to multi-week troughs.

Gold was also hit by news of easing inflationary pressures in the eurozone, because the metal is traditionally regarded as a safe store of value in times of rising inflation.

July inflation dropped to 0.4 percent from June’s 0.5 percent, hitting its lowest level since late 2009 and sparking renewed deflation worries.

The yellow metal was also pulled lower as the dollar strengthened on hopes of US monetary policy tightening from the US Federal Reserve.

“The (gold) price slide was partly due to the very low inflation rate in the eurozone, which fell year-on-year in July… thereby giving an additional boost to the US dollar,” added Commerzbank analysts.

“For another thing, US economic data contributed to the price correction, as they suggest that US monetary policy could be tightened sooner than expected.”

The stronger greenback makes US-denominated gold more expensive for buyers using weaker currencies. That tends to hit demand and prices.

By Friday on the London Bullion Market, the price of gold fell to $1,291.25 an ounce from $1,294.75 a week earlier.

Silver decreased to $20.34 an ounce from $20.46.

On the London Platinum and Palladium Market, platinum declined to $1,462 an ounce from $1,473.

Palladium dipped to $871 an ounce from $876.

BASE METALS: Base or industrial metal prices largely fell, in line with global equities, as dealers fretted over Argentina’s debt default and fast-moving geopolitical crises in Gaza and Ukraine.

The move lower came despite an upbeat start to the week, in which aluminium, lead and zinc scored multi-month highs on speculative buying.

“Metal prices found themselves under considerable pressure… as a result of weak global equity markets,” Commerzbank analysts said.

“This is doubtless attributable to the much higher risk aversion exhibited by market participants on account of the numerous geopolitical risks and Argentina’s payment default.”

By Friday on the London Metal Exchange, copper for delivery in three months declined to $7,103 a tonne from $7,177.75 a week earlier.

Three-month aluminium dropped to $1,987 a tonne from $2,030.50.

Three-month lead reversed to $2,223 a tonne from $2,271.25.

Three-month tin rose to $22,480 a tonne from $22,411.

Three-month nickel sank to $18,500 a tonne from $19,299.

Three-month zinc slid to $2,353.50 a tonne from $2,408.75.

– Cocoa market spikes –

COCOA: Prices were catapulted to a 3.5-year pinnacle at £2,028 per tonne in London, on the back of solid demand and intense speculative buying.

“Strong demand continues to keep the market well-supported,” said Citi analyst Sterling Smith.

The key chocolate ingredient has jumped by almost a fifth in value since the start of the year.

“Demand remains a primary driver of the market and stronger demand is expected to continue well into next year,” added Price Futures Group analyst Jack Scoville.

“West African production continues to be strong and prospects for strong production for the coming crop are good.”

By Friday on LIFFE, cocoa for delivery in September climbed to £2,019 a tonne from £1,984 a week earlier.

On ICE Futures US, cocoa for September nudged down to $3,196 a tonne from $3,198 a week earlier.

COFFEE: Prices leapt on Friday to a three-month peak at 207.40 US cents per pound, driven by expectations of a poor crop in top producer Brazil.

The market also zoomed to $2,139 per tonne in London, the highest level since mid-May.

“The continuingly bleak outlook for the current Brazilian coffee harvest has seen the commodity jump,” said IG analyst Alastair McCaig.

“With more disappointing weather expected in the coming weeks, this run could carry on for some time.”

On ICE Futures US, Arabica for delivery in September rallied to 196.90 US cents a pound from 179.50 cents a week earlier.

On LIFFE, Robusta for September rose to $2,114 a tonne from $2,018 a week earlier.

SUGAR: The market struck multi-month lows, at $436.40 per tonne in London and 16.40 US cents per pound in New York, as prices were weighed on by abundant supplies.

“Brazil continues to harvest the crop rapidly and make sugar available to the market as the dry weather has made for very rapid harvest progress,” said Scoville.

By Friday on LIFFE, London’s futures exchange, the price of a tonne of white sugar for delivery in October had sunk to $436.50 compared with $446.70 a week earlier.

On the ICE Futures US exchange, the price of unrefined sugar for October dropped to 16.41 US cents a pound from 17.03 US cents a week earlier.

RUBBER: Prices in Kuala Lumpur drifted higher as a weaker Malaysian ringgit against the US dollar attracted foreign buyers in a holiday-shortened trading week.

The Malaysian Rubber Board’s benchmark SMR20 ended at 170.10 US cents a kilo, up from 169.05 cents a week earlier.