Commodities smash records in historic week

October 16, 2010 | 01:00
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LONDON, October 15, 2010 - Gold, tin, rubber and cotton hit record peaks this week, aided by keen demand, the tumbling dollar and strengthening hopes of new monetary easing measures from the US Federal Reserve, analysts said.

"Commodity prices continued to post strong gains throughout the week, with gold, tin, rubber and cotton hitting record highs, and other commodities hitting multi-year peaks," said Barclays Capital analyst Kerri Maddock.

"While this price strength has been widely attributed to the weakness of the dollar in the media, the underlying fundamentals (of supply and demand) have continued to improve, making these price moves justified in our view."

The dollar was rocked on Tuesday after the Fed hinted that it would likely adopt more quantitative easing (QE) measures -- by buying up bonds and other assets -- to boost the faltering American economy.

The news, contained in minutes from the Fed's September interest rate meeting, sent the dollar reeling because the introduction of such funds would tend to dilute the dollar, devaluing it further.

The weak greenback makes dollar-denominated raw materials cheaper for buyers using stronger currencies, and therefore tends to stimulate demand and prices.

In a further twist, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke on Friday gave his strongest hint to date that the US central bank will ramp up extraordinary measures -- dubbed QE2 by traders -- to help the fledgling economic recovery.

The comments sent the dollar tumbling to another 15-year low against the yen and a near nine-month nadir against the European single currency.

PRECIOUS METALS: Gold prices blazed a record-breaking trail to 1,387.35 dollars an ounce, dragging sister metal silver to a 30-year pinnacle at 24.92 dollars, while palladium set a nine-year high at 605.13 dollars.

"Once again gold dominates the headlines, with yet another new record high," said Rajesh Patel at trading firm Spread Co.

"The catalyst this time? The minutes from the 21st September FOMC released yesterday gave a pretty clear indication, not that it was a surprise to anyone really, that a resumption of QE is 'appropriate before long'."

By late Friday on the London Bullion Market, gold rose to 1,367.50 dollars an ounce, up from 1,341.50 dollars a week earlier.

Silver advanced to 24.42 dollars an ounce from 22.37 dollars.

On the London Platinum and Palladium Market, platinum gained to 1,691 dollars an ounce from 1,683 dollars.

Palladium climbed to 591 dollars an ounce from 572 dollars.

BASE METALS: Tin was the star performer, forging an all-time peak at 27,338 dollars a tonne on Thursday amid stretched supplies.

"Industrial metals have continued their strong rally supported by increased expectation for QE2 (and) US dollar weakness," said Deutsche Bank analyst Daniel Brebner.

By late Friday on the London Metal Exchange, copper for delivery in three months rallied to 8,392 dollars a tonne from 8,270 dollars a week earlier.

Three-month aluminium eased to 2,390 dollars a tonne from 2,400 dollars.

Three-month lead rose to 2,387 dollars a tonne from 2,272 dollars.

Three-month tin jumped to 26,874 dollars a tonne from 26,300 dollars from a week earlier.

Three-month zinc gained to 2,408 dollars a tonne from 2,293 dollars.

Three-month nickel dipped to 23,900 dollars a tonne from 24,405 dollars.

RUBBER: Rubber rallied to record levels, fuelled by strong demand from China's auto industry, and tight supplies caused by wet weather in southeast Asian producing nations.

The Malaysian Rubber Board said its benchmark SMR 20 hit 3.94 dollars per kilo on Friday. That is a record since the price of Standard Malaysian Rubber was set in 1972.

The new high represented a massive increase from 1.12 dollars where it languished in December 2008 amid the global economic downturn.

And with the La Nina weather pattern tipped to bring more rain to the major producing nations of Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand over the rest of the year, prices are expected to continue rising.

"A fundamental factor is strong demand from China," a Singapore-based analyst said. "There is very strong demand for vehicles and therefore for tyres in China, and in India as well."

Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam produce three-quarters of the world's natural rubber and account for 93 percent of global exports.

By Friday, the Malaysian Rubber Board's benchmark SMR20 rose to 394.25 US cents a kilo from 359.95 cents a week earlier.

COTTON: Cotton struck an all-time peak at 1.1980 dollars a pound in New York, as inventories dropped amid growing demand in Asia. That beat the previous record set in 1995.

"Continued robust Asian demand -- and Chinese import demand in particular -- coupled with supply-side problems and the marked decline in stocks has underpinned the rally," said Barclays Capital analyst Sudakshina Unnikrishnan.

Cotton has pushed higher in recent months, driven by lower production in Pakistan after devastating floods and a severe monsoon season in India. The two countries are among the world's largest producers.

The commodity has now soared by 30 percent in value over the past month, and by an astonishing 75 percent from the same stage last year.

By Friday in New York, cotton for December rose to 1.0987 dollars a pound from 1.0717 a week earlier.

OIL: Crude oil briefly topped 85 dollars in London, helped by data showing surprisingly strong global energy demand, before slipping on profit-taking.

Traders also digested OPEC's decision to maintain its output target, alongside news of a surprise drop in crude reserves in the United States, the world's top oil consumer.

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) left its official oil production ceiling unchanged on Thursday, in line with expectations in the face of an uncertain economic outlook, after a high-profile meeting in Vienna.

OPEC, which pumps 40 percent of the world's oil, agreed to keep its target at 24.84 million barrels a day.

Meanwhile, the US Department of Energy revealed that American crude stockpiles fell unexpectedly by 400,000 in the week ending October 8, against expectations for 1.2-million-barrel gain.

The market also found modest support from news of record Chinese crude imports in September, and after the International Energy Agency upgraded its energy demand forecasts citing an upturn in industrialised nations.

By late Friday on London's Intercontinental Exchange, Brent North Sea crude for delivery in December dipped to 83.60 dollars a barrel from 84.30 dollars for the November contract a week earlier.

On the New York Mercantile Exchange, Texas light sweet crude for November eased to 82.41 dollars a barrel compared with 82.83 dollars.

GRAINS AND SOYA: Grains and soya rallied to impressive heights, boosted by falling US output and strong demand, but wheat slid.

Maize or corn leapt to 5.8580 dollars per bushel, hitting the best level since August 2008, while soya soared to 11.9450 dollars -- which was last seen in June 2009.

"Corn prices have hit fresh highs since August 2008," added Unnikrishnan at Barclays Capital.

"We continue to view the market with an upside bias over coming months amid choppy trade, following a markedly tighter fundamental balance."

By Friday on the Chicago Board of Trade, maize for delivery in December jumped to 5.67 dollars a bushel from 5.28 dollars the previous week.

November-dated soyabean meal -- used in animal feed -- rose to 11.93 dollars a bushel from 11.35 dollars.

Wheat for December was down to 6.99 dollars a bushel from 7.19 dollars.

COFFEE: Coffee prices rose as traders worried that dry weather would badly affect harvests in key producing nations.

By Friday on the New York Board of Trade (NYBOT), Arabica for delivery in December advanced to 185.85 cents a pound from 179.10 cents the previous week.

On LIFFE -- London's futures exchange -- Robusta for January increased to 1,685 dollars a tonne from 1,668 dollars last Friday.

COCOA: Cocoa drifted higher as traders tracked the fading dollar.

By Friday On NYBOT, cocoa for delivery in December edged up to 2,814 dollars a tonne from 2,779 dollars a week earlier.

On LIFFE, cocoa for December rose to 1,865 pounds a tonne from 1,857 pounds.

SUGAR: Sugar futures hit fresh eight-month highs at 711.70 pounds a tonne in London, and a similar peak in New York, aided by tight world supplies.

By Friday on NYBOT, the price of unrefined sugar for delivery in March climbed to 27.45 US cents a pound from 26.40 cents a week earlier.

On LIFFE, the price of a tonne of white sugar for December stood at 697.10 pounds, compared with 681.90 pounds.


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