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Copper hits record high as U.S. crude oil dips

Konstantin Inozemtsev

Copper hit record peaks near $10,000 a tonne Tuesday after data suggesting a pickup in U.S. economic recovery, and soybeans surged to a 30-month top, extending the commodities rally into February.

The Reuters-Jefferies CRB index, a global benchmark for commodities, soared to its highest levels since Oct 2008 as prices of gold and niche commodities such as coffee and cotton rose as well.

But U.S. crude oil U.S. crude oil - the largest component of the CRB - fell, diverging from London's Brent which continued to punch above the $100-per-barrel mark it pierced Monday.

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U.S. oil's West Texas Intermediate crude - which makes up nearly of a quarter of the weighting on the 19-commodity CRB - settled down 1.5 per cent at just above $90 per barrel. Brent crude closed up half per cent at above $101 a barrel, after hitting a 28-month peak at $102.

Many had expected WTI to narrow its gap with Brent on Tuesday, after both had spiked in the previous session on fear that Egypt's political turmoil could spread to oil-producing Middle East countries, affecting supply.

"Brent is up and U.S. crude is down today because any possible disruption in oil supplies passing through choke points such as the Suez Canal has a greater impact on Brent than U.S. crude," said Joe Possillico at commodity brokers MF Global.

Egypt is home to the Suez Canal and the Suez-Mediterranean Pipeline, which between them moved more than 2 million barrels per day of crude and oil products in 2009. The crisis in Egypt reached new heights Tuesday after President Hosni Mubarak said he will not run for another term but indicated he will be in office until September, while Egyptians wanted him out immediately.


Copper led the base metals complex after data showing manufacturing activity in both the euro zone and in the United States expanding at their fastest pace in nearly seven years . An uptick in the China Purchasing Manager's Index also provided support.

Copper aside, tin hit another record high, nickel touched a peak since May 2008, and aluminum surged to its highest since September 2008.

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"We just have a base metals blitz to the upside," said Bill O'Neill, partner at LOGIC Advisors in Upper Saddle River in New Jersey. "In a certain sense, it's similar to the agricultural commodities in that it's a demand-based rally, and there's nothing more bullish than a cyclical demand rally."

London Metal Exchange's three-month copper closed the final kerb up $200 at $9,945 a tonne. It rallied in after-hours business to a record of $9,968.

In New York, copper for March delivery jumped 8.85 cents, or 2 per cent, to finish the official session at $4.5470 a lb after a record $4.5515 in overnight electronic trade.

Copper's 8-per cent gain over the past week has already surpassed the most bearish analyst price forecasts in a latest Reuters poll, and was on its way toward the upper end of the range of estimates.


Chicago soybean futures rose nearly 2 per cent, hitting their highest level since July 2008, after a frigid winter storm in the United States boosted demand for animal feed. A strike in Argentina also delayed shipments from the world's No. 3 soybeans exporter.

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The key U.S. farm states of Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri were hammered by what forecasters said could be a record-setting combination of frigid conditions and snowfall of a foot or more in some areas.

"It's fair to say a storm like this would support corn and meal. Anyone who doesn't have feed locked in might want to get coverage," said Dan Dempsey, an analyst for Iowa Grain.

Chicago Board of Trade March soybeans closed up 25 cents, or 1.8 per cent, at $14.38 a bushel, notching a new contract high at $14.40-1/2. New highs were also set in May and August contracts.

Meanwhile, gold rose slightly Tuesday as a weaker dollar stirred buying interest, but it failed to rally further after the well-received U.S. manufacturing data and relative peace in Egypt dampened the metal's safe-haven appeal.

U.S. gold futures for April delivery settled up $5.80 an ounce to $1,340.30. Volume was lower than usual for a second day in a row, about one quarter less than its 30-day moving average.

Open interest in the COMEX gold futures continued to decline sharply. Exchange data showed it fell 3 per cent to about 465,000 lots, the lowest level since March 2010.

Gold in January posted its biggest monthly drop since December 2009 as investor risk appetite improved, diverting interest from so-called havens such as gold into higher-yielding assets.

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