Commodities were mixed Thursday after the European Central Bank raised a key interest rate and Japan was rocked by a powerful aftershock to last month's devastating earthquake and tsunami.
Prices for gold, copper and oil rose while grains, beans and gasoline fell as investors sought to balance their holdings.
The European Central Bank raised its key interest rate by a quarter point in an effort to control inflation. The move came a day after Portugal asked for rescue loans from other nations in the European Union.
The rate increase validated the inflation threat, leading investors to buy more crude and gold, George Gero, vice president at RBC Global Futures, wrote in an email.
In Japan, the magnitude-7.4 aftershock knocked out power across much of the northern part of the country nearly a month after an earthquake and tsunami flattened the northeastern coast.
A tsunami warning was issued but canceled about 90 minutes later. There were no immediate reports of serious injuries or damage.
The aftershock sent copper prices higher on expectations that more of the metal would be needed to help with rebuilding, Gero said.
In metals trading, May copper added 4.65 cents to settle at $4.4165 a pound. July platinum fell $7.20 to settle at $1,790.60 an ounce and June palladium gave up $4.35 to settle at $780.25 an ounce.
Gold for June delivery rose 80 cents to settle at $1,459.30 an ounce and May silver added 16.5 cents to settle at $39.552 an ounce.
In other trading, wheat prices fell despite stronger export sales and ongoing dry weather that is plaguing the winter wheat crop in parts of the Great Plains.
Mike Zuzolo, president of Global Commodity Analytics & Consulting LLC, said he believes investors were nervous after the aftershock was reported in Japan and sold holdings to take a profit.
In contracts for May delivery, wheat lost 9 cents to settle at $7.7325 a bushel, corn fell 4 cents to $7.59 a bushel and soybeans gave up 13 cents to $13.635 a bushel.
Energy contracts were mixed. Oil topped $110 a barrel for the first time since September 2008 while natural gas fell after the government said stockpiles declined last week less than analysts had expected.
Benchmark crude for May delivery rose $1.47 to settle at $110.30 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
In other Nymex contracts for May, heating oil rose 1.48 cents to settle at $3.206 per gallon, gasoline fell 0.64 cent to $3.1865 per gallon and natural gas lost 8.9 cents to $4.057 per 1,000 cubic feet.