Most commodity prices fell Monday as signs of slower economic growth emerged in Europe. Investors worried about future global demand for oil, copper and wheat if Europe slows further or falls back into recession.
Investors waited for Greece and its bondholders to finish a deal to cut Greece's debt, a critical step toward avoiding a messy default in March. But there was no announcement of anything official.
But there were independent signs that the European economy is slowing. France lowered its 2012 economic growth forecast to 0.5 percent from 1 percent, and Spain said its economy shrank in the fourth quarter.
European leaders met Monday to discuss ways increase economic growth and create jobs, plus the sovereign debt crisis. Even if Greece cuts its down, there are still concerns about Italy and Portugal.
"It's all very patchy," said Edward Meir, an analyst for INTL FC Stone, which offers services in commodities, capital markets, currencies and asset management, among others. "It's like they put their finger on one hole and water leaks from another. They can't get their arms around the whole thing."
Despite Monday's broad sell-off, most commodity prices are higher for the month. The main exceptions are wheat, corn, soybeans and natural gas.
Gold for February delivery fell $1.20 to finish at $1,731 an ounce. In March contracts, silver declined 26.3 cents to end at $33.527 an ounce, copper dropped 6.25 cents to $3.8265 per pound, and palladium ended down $1.65 at $688.50 per ounce. April platinum fell $6.70 to $1,616.30 an ounce.
In energy trading, the price of oil declined as investors worried that U.S. economic growth may slow after the Commerce Department said consumer spending was flat in December even though incomes rose.
In addition, Iran welcomed international weapons experts in an effort to ease concerns about its nuclear program. Europe and U.S. leaders have been concerned that Iran could be building a nuclear weapon.
Benchmark oil decreased 78 cents to end at $98.78 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Heating oil fell 2.15 cents to finish at $3.0378 per gallon, gasoline futures declined 5.07 cents to $2.8727 per gallon, and natural gas fell 4.3 cents to $2.713 per 1,000 cubic feet.
In March agriculture contracts, wheat fell 2.5 cents to end at $6.4475 per bushel, corn declined 10 cents to $6.3175 per bushel and soybeans ended down 33.75 cents to $11.8525 per bushel.