Copper prices rise slightly on home sales report

AP News
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Posted: Mar 21, 2012 3:59 PM
Copper prices rise slightly on home sales report

Copper prices rose slightly Wednesday after a report on U.S. home sales offered some signs that the market is slowing getting better.

Copper finished up less than 1 percent on what proved to be a quiet day for most commodities trading without significant economic news to move the market.

Sales of previously occupied homes fell slightly in February to 4.59 million from 4.63 million in January, the National Association of Realtors said. The two months still made up the best winter for sales of previously occupied homes in five years.

Yet, there is still some distance yet to cover. Economists say sales of previously occupied homes must be about 6 million for the market to be considered healthy.

The news is positive for copper because the metal is used in a wide variety of products, including wires and pipes for construction. Copper for May delivery rose 1.5 cents to finish at $3.8455 per pound. The price is up about 12 percent this year.

In other trading, gold rose as investors wait to see how economic growth is faring, said George Gero, vice president at RBC Global Futures. Gold often is used as a hedge against inflation.

Gold for April delivery rose $3.30 to finish at $1,650.30 an ounce. The price is up about 5 percent this year but well off last year's high of around $1,900 an ounce.

May silver increased 39.3 cents to end at $32.227 per ounce, April platinum fell $13.90 to $1,640.40 an ounce and June palladium dropped $8.40 to $688.65 an ounce.

Oil prices rose after the Energy Department said crude inventories declined by 1.2 million barrels, which was more than analysts had expected.

Benchmark crude finished up $1.20 to finish at $107.27 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Heating oil dropped 2.05 cents to end at $3.2162 per gallon, gasoline futures fell 0.6 cent to $3.3571 per gallon and natural gas rose 2.5 cents to $2.36 per 1,000 cubic feet.

In May agricultural contracts, wheat dropped 6.25 cents to end at $6.3625 per bushel, corn declined 5.5 cents to $6.42 per bushel and soybeans rose 10 cents to $13.55 per bushel.

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AP Business Writer Derek Kravitz contributed to this report.