Industrial metals and crops end week higher

AP News
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Posted: Dec 23, 2011 3:38 PM
Industrial metals and crops end week higher

Industrial metals ended the week higher Friday on growing optimism that economic growth will strengthen in the United States.

Copper for March delivery rose 5.4 cents to $3.4695 per pound. That leaves copper almost 4 percent higher for the week. March palladium rose $11.85 to $666.25 an ounce, putting it up about 6.5 percent since Monday.

Industrial metals tend to rise when traders think economic activity will increase. Factories buy copper and palladium to make everything from televisions to building materials for new housing construction.

Hopes of stronger growth were stoked Friday after Congress extended a payroll tax holiday for workers and emergency unemployment benefits. Analysts had worried that economic growth could have fallen by about 1 percent if the programs were allowed to expire at the end of the year.

The news came a day after the Department of Labor said the number of people applying for unemployment benefits dropped last week to the lowest level since April 2008. A weak job market has restrained consumer spending since 2008, so any rebound in hiring could increase demand.

In other trading, crop prices were also higher. Crops tend to rise when traders think stronger economic growth will spur demand for both food and crop-based fuels like ethanol and biodiesel. January soybeans rose 7.5 cents to $11.725 per bushel. That puts soybeans nearly 3 percent higher for the week.

March wheat rose 0.25 cents to finish at $6.22 per bushel, putting it 6 percent higher for the week. March corn rose 2 cents to $6.195 per bushel, also up 6 percent since Monday.

Precious metals were mixed.

Gold for February delivery fell $4.60 to end at $1,606 an ounce, leaving it nearly flat for the week. March silver gained 3.7 cents to end at $29.084 an ounce, down 2 percent for the week. January platinum gained $5.10 to $1,429.50 an ounce.

Benchmark oil rose 15 cents to finish at $99.68 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Heating oil lost 1.59 cents to end at $2.8995 per gallon, gasoline futures rose 4.13 cents to $2.6781 per gallon and natural gas lost 5.5 cents to $3.114 per 1,000 cubic feet.