Metals fall on new questions about Greece's debt

AP News
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Posted: Feb 14, 2012 4:29 PM
Metals fall on new questions about Greece's debt

Metals prices fell Tuesday as questions surfaced about Greece's ability to uphold new austerity measures and resolve its debt crisis.

Greek lawmakers have approved a package of spending cuts to try to win approval of a second bailout package. But European finance ministers canceled a meeting to discuss that funding after Greece failed to comply with several of their demands.

Investors are concerned that the European Union may not reach an agreement on a way to bail out Greece. If that happens, the region's economy may slow even more and cut into demand for commodities. Kingsview Financial analyst Matt Zeman said the market has been "overly optimistic" recently about Europe's efforts to resolve its financial crisis.

Analysts expect that official figures due to be released Wednesday will show that economic growth in the 17 countries that use the euro shrank by around 0.4 percent in the final three months of 2011, after growing 0.1 percent in the third quarter. The statistics office said Tuesday that industrial production in the region fell 1.1 percent in December.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Commerce Department said retail sales rose 0.4 percent last month, less than the 0.7 percent increase predicted by economists surveyed by FactSet. Spending fell on automobiles, which use metals like copper, platinum and palladium.

Gold for April delivery declined $7.20 to finish at $1,717.70 an ounce. In March contracts, silver declined 37.4 cents to finish at $33.348 per ounce, copper fell 2.5 cents to $3.8145 per pound and palladium ended down $11.30 at $687.25 per ounce. April platinum declined $21.70 to finish at $1,628 per ounce.

Benchmark crude fell 17 cents to finish at $100.74 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Heating oil rose 0.48 cent to end at $3.1648 per gallon, gasoline futures fell 3 cents to $2.9825 per gallon and natural gas rose 10.1 cents to $2.532 per 1,000 cubic feet.

In March agriculture contracts, wheat fell 6.25 cents to $6.35 per bushel, corn fell 6 cents to $6.335 per bushel and soybeans rose 3 cents to $12.55 per bushel.