Most commodities higher on mix of economic news

AP News
Posted: Dec 16, 2011 4:58 PM
Most commodities higher on mix of economic news

Most commodity prices rose Friday as Europe's financial problems were offset by signs of an improving U.S. economy.

Many commodities benefited as investors looked for bargains after a sharp, across-the-board sell-off earlier in the week. Metals and agricultural contracts rose while most energy contracts fell.

U.S. government reports showed on Thursday showed a drop in the number of people filing for unemployment benefits last week, a sign that layoffs are easing. Manufacturing expanded in the New York and Philadelphia regions. Manufacturing has been a key source of economic growth this year.

The news was mixed in Europe. Italy's lower house of parliament on Friday approved an austerity package in hopes of lowering the country's escalating borrowing costs. At the same time, Fitch ratings agency warned it could downgrade six nations that use the euro, including Italy and Spain.

Analysts expect commodity prices to remain uneven as Europe's situation remains unresolved and investors turn their attention to the year-end holidays. There also is uncertainty about how Europe's problems will affect the global economy.

"We anticipate extreme volatility over the near term, as the market reacts to economic data out of Europe and China," Dahlman Rose & Co. analyst Anthony B. Rizzuto Jr. said in an emailed report.

Gold for February delivery rose $20.70 to end at $1,597.90 an ounce. In March metals contracts, silver rose 39.7 cents to end at $29.671 an ounce, copper rose 6.4 cents to $3.331 per pound and palladium rose $4.85 to $625.50 an ounce. January platinum ended up $10.30 at $1,417.30 an ounce.

Europe's crisis also hurt oil and other energy products. Benchmark oil fell 34 cents to finish at $93.53 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Heating oil fell 2.2 cents to end at $2.8005 per gallon, gasoline futures fell 0.07 cent to $2.487 per gallon and natural gas was unchanged at $3.127 per 1,000 cubic feet.

March wheat rose 4.5 cents to finish at $5.8375 per bushel, March corn rose 4 cents to $5.83 per bushel and January soybeans rose 18.25 cents to $11.30 per bushel.