Copper prices fell sharply Monday as signs of a slower global economy raised questions about future demand for the industrial metal.
Copper ended down 2 percent. Palladium and silver also fell. The three metals are used in a vast number of consumer products from automobiles to consumer electronics and construction materials.
Two reports released in the past few days are driving the economic worries: a slowdown in U.S. job creation and an increase in China's inflation rate.
The U.S. Labor Department reported Friday that employers added just 120,000 jobs in March, about half the pace from December through February. That renewed concerns about the pace of U.S. economic growth.
Consumer prices in China rose 3.6 percent from a year ago but remained below the government's 4 percent target for the year. Investors speculated that the government may not cut the ratio of funds that banks must hold as reserves, which would free up money for lending, R.J. O'Brien senior commodities broker Phil Streible said. That could hurt demand for copper in the world's second-largest economy, which is a huge importer of raw materials.
Copper for May delivery fell 7.55 cents to end at $3.72 per pound, June palladium decreased $1 to $643.80 per ounce and May silver ended down 20.6 cents at $31.524 per ounce. July platinum ended up $10.60 to $1,618.20 an ounce.
The economic worries benefited gold, which is considered a relatively stable asset that investors tend to buy when they're nervous about the economy. June gold increased $13.80 to finish at $1,643.90 an ounce.
In other trading, orange juice futures plummeted nearly 4 percent as more evidence emerged that supplies are plentiful three months after a fungicide was found in low but safe levels in juice on retail shelves. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has rejected 30 shipments of imported oranges out of 4,144 lots since it began testing imported fruit in late January.
"There just seems to be plenty of juice around," said Jack Scoville, vice president of Price Futures Group.
Orange juice for May delivery fell 5.9 cents to finish at $1.528 per pound.
Benchmark crude fell 85 cents to end at $102.46 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Gasoline futures declined 4.38 cents to finish at $3.2967 per gallon, heating oil dropped 2.33 cents to $3.1459 per gallon and natural gas rose 1.8 cents to $2.107 per 1,000 cubic feet.
In May agricultural contracts, wheat rose 4.5 cents to finish at $6.43 per bushel, corn fell 9.25 cents to $6.49 per bushel and soybeans declined 3 cents to $14.31 per bushel.