Oil prices spike, nickel and coffee hit peaks

LONDON, Aug 25, 2006 (AFP) – Crude oil prices rebounded, while nickel hit a historic peak and coffee futures in London reached their highest level in seven years in a volatile trading week for commodities. On Friday, the Commodities Research Bureau’s index of 17 commodities finished at 336.20 points, up from 330.62 points the previous week.

GOLD: The price of gold advanced, rebounding from a one-month low.

It jumped about 15.0 dollars on Monday amid tensions surrounding Iran’s ongoing standoff with the international community over its nuclear programme.

“Heightened geo-political tensions,” helped to push gold higher, said James Moore, analyst at specialist website TheBullionDesk.com.

The precious metal usually benefits from its safe-haven status in times in geopolitical instability, while gold is also seen as a good hedge against rising inflation.

On the London Bullion Market, gold prices increased to 621.25 dollars per ounce at Friday’s late fixing, from 613.90 dollars a week earlier.

SILVER: Silver prices jumped to the highest point for almost three months.

Gold’s sister metal continues to benefit from the launch earlier this year of a silver fund on the American Stock Exchange.

Silver struck 12.69 dollars per ounce on Wednesday — a peak last reached on May 31.
On the London Bullion Market, silver prices rose to 12.40 dollars per ounce at Friday’s fixing, from 12.01 dollars the previous week.

PALLADIUM AND PLATINUM: Palladium prices touched a multi-month peak, while sister metal platinum lagged behind somewhat.

Palladium hit 347 dollars per ounce on Thursday, which marked the highest level since June 6.

“Palladium appears to be firmer than platinum due to investment and speculator buying,” said UBS analyst John Reade.

On the London Platinum and Palladium Market, platinum rose to 1,223 dollars per ounce at the late fixing Friday, from 1,217 dollars the previous week.

Palladium advanced to 344 dollars per ounce on Friday from 334 dollars the previous week.

BASE METALS: Base metal prices climbed higher, with star performer nickel reaching a historic high on declining stocks and rising demand from steelmakers.

The price of nickel broke through the 30,000-dollar-a-tonne threshold for the first time Thursday, reaching 30,165 dollars per tonne.

Nickel, a metal used to help prevent corrosion, has surged in value by 124 percent so far this year, while global stockpiles have plunged 85 percent.

“The nickel market is likely to remain tight for some time and critically low stocks could prompt further price strength and clearly more volatility,” said UBS analyst Robin Bhar.

Copper prices also rose amid an ongoing strike at the Escondida mine in Chile, the world’s biggest copper mine.

On Friday, three-month copper prices on the LME gained to 7,506 dollars per tonne from 7,481 dollars the previous week.

Three-month aluminium prices firmed to 2,497 dollars per tonne from 2,484 dollars.

Three-month nickel prices surged to 29,300 dollars per tonne from 28,400 dollars.

Three-month lead prices advanced to 1,220 dollars per tonne from 1,204 dollars.

Three-month zinc prices increased to 3,380 dollars per tonne from 3,295 dollars.

Three-month tin prices rose to 8,600 dollars per tonne from 8,425 dollars.

OIL: Crude futures rebounded late in the week as supply concerns fuelled by Iran’s standoff over its nuclear programme and production problems in the United States offset a surprise jump in stocks of US motor fuel.

In line with a UN Security Council resolution, the United States and its European allies insist that Iran must stop enriching uranium by August 31 or face the threat of sanctions.

Analysts argue that sanctions could lead to Iran disrupting its vital oil supplies.

Iran, the world’s fourth-biggest producer of crude, exports almost three-quarters of its daily output that totals 4.0 million barrels per day.

Prices were also supported by news that BP has further cut output at the United States’ biggest oil field.

The British energy giant BP said that output at its troubled Prudhoe Bay oil field in Alaska had fallen to about a quarter of normal output because of a new technical problem.

Prudhoe Bay was already operating at about half its normal output of 400,000 bpd owing to a pipeline leak which was revealed earlier this month.

Crude futures had tumbled more than a dollar midweek, however, owing to an unexpected rise in stocks of US gasoline, or petrol.

US gasoline inventories rose 400,000 barrels to 205.8 million barrels in the week to August 18, the Department of Energy said in a weekly report published on Wednesday.

Analysts had anticipated a decline of more than two million.

The increase was achieved despite robust demand for petrol with many Americans on the roads for summer vacations.

Oil prices won support late in the week also from fears that oil installations in the Gulf of Mexico could be hit by a potential tropical storm.

At about 1600 GMT on Friday in New York, a barrel of crude for delivery in October advanced to 73.55 dollars per barrel from 72.10 dollars the previous week.

In London, a barrel of Brent North Sea crude for delivery in October increased to 73.78 dollars per barrel, from 71.92 dollars.

RUBBER: Rubber prices weakened owing to favourable growing conditions in leading Asian producer nations.

“There’s a lack of interest in the rubber futures from the fund managers at the moment, maybe on the back of finer weather conditions in the East, which have led to better production and reasonable stocks,” Corrie MacColl trader Rashid Ahmed said.

“The third quarter is generally a better production period, so … prices should remain weak.”

On TOCOM, Tokyo’s commodity exchange, natural rubber for January delivery fell to 252.20 yen per kilogramme on Friday, from 252.80 yen a week earlier.

Singapore’s RSS 3 January contract slid to 213.50 US cents per kilogramme on Friday, from 216.25 US cents a week earlier.

COCOA: Cocoa prices slid on signs of a bumper harvest in West Africa, but falls were limited by instability in leading producer Ivory Coast, which accounts for 40 percent of global output.

“Favourable weather conditions in key growing regions have helped prospects for an improving 2005/06 crop, with market players awaiting estimates for the new main crops in West Africa, which start in October,” Sucden analyst Michael Davies said.

“Negotiations for the long-delayed general elections in Ivory Coast failed to meet an end of October deadline adding to concerns over the prolonged period of instability in the war-divided country.”

World demand for cocoa, meanwhile, was set to outstrip supply during the 12 months to September creating a production deficit of about 5,000 tonnes, the International Cocoa Organization said.

That compared with its May estimate of a a deficit of 161,000 tonnes.

On the LIFFE, London’s futures exchange, the price of cocoa for December delivery fell to 857 pounds per tonne on Friday, from 869 pounds a week earlier.

On the New York Board of Trade (NYBoT), the December contract slid to 1,516 dollars per tonne on Friday, from 1,543 dollars a week earlier.

COFFEE: The price of coffee struck the highest point for more than seven years in London trade owing to low output in major producer Vietnam.

On Tuesday, Robusta coffee hit 1,586 dollars per tonne — last reached in May 1999. Robusta has seen its price almost double in one year and surge by 37 percent since a month ago.

“There is a very immediate shortage of coffee from Vietnam because of very heavy rain,” said Pablo Dubois, head of operations at the International Coffee Organization.

The development also lifted the price of Arabica beans which are mainly grown in Brazil, the world’s leading coffee producer.

Arabica has gained 16 percent in value over the past month.

On LIFFE, Robusta quality for November delivery rose to 1,502 dollars per tonne on Friday, from 1,460 dollars a week earlier.

On NYBoT, Arabica for December delivery gained to 111.20 US cents per pound on Friday, from 106.90 cents.

SUGAR: Sugar prices hit their lowest point this year before rebounding.

“London was lower on the back of fund and speculative selling, still remaining near seven-month lows,” Davies said.

In London on Tuesday the price of white sugar hit a new low for 2006, reaching 373 dollars per tonne.

New York prices slid again below 12.0 cents, close to a nine-month low of 11.96 cents reached the previous week.

“The market is still oversold technically and could be due a bounce higher, but it remains under pressure from expectations of plentiful supplies,” Davies said.

On LIFFE, the price of a tonne of white sugar for October delivery rose to 384.50 dollars, from 378 dollars a week earlier.

On NYBot, the price of unrefined sugar for October delivery increased to 12.42 US cents per pound, from 12.25 cents.

GRAINS AND SOYA: Grain prices advanced this week owing to keen buying, while soya stabilized amid rainy weather which boosts harvests but limits prices.

Weather was the factor preventing the market from becoming excited about the prospect of high prices going forward, noted Allendale analyst Joe Victor, who singled out soya as being particularly susceptible to changing weather.

On the Chicago Board of Trade, the price of wheat for September delivery rose to 3.81 US dollars per bushel on Friday, from 3.61 dollars a week earlier.

Maize for September delivery increased to 2.26 dollars per bushel on Friday, from 2.18 dollars.

September-dated soyabean meal — used in animal feed — gained slightly to 5.50 dollars per tonne on Friday, from 5.49 dollars.

On the LIFFE, the price of a tonne of wheat for November delivery jumped to 84.75 pounds on Friday, the highest level since May 2004, from 82.00 pounds.

COTTON: Prices firmed on forecasts of rising Chinese demand, and following a heatwave in the cotton-producing US states of Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi.

On the New York Cotton Exchange (NYCE), the December contract stood at 55.60 US cents per pound on Friday, from 54.80 US cents a week earlier.

The Cotton Outlook Index of physical cotton rose to 60.35 US cents on Thursday, from 59.85 US cents a week earlier.

WOOL: Wool prices steadied in major producer Australia.

“Buyers for China, Italy and India and the topmakers (clothing manufacturers) were dominant,” the Australian Wool Industries Secretariat said.

The Australian Eastern index closed at 7.46 Australian dollars per kilo on Thursday, from 7.45 the previous week. The British Wooltops index stood at 401 pence on Thursday, unchanged from the previous Thursday.