By Barani Krishnan
NEW YORK, Feb 12 Risk aversion hit commodities with full force on Thursday due to more gloomy economic data, with the amply supplied oil market dropping 5 percent and only gold rallying to extend a 6-1/2 month high as investors sought a safe store of value.
Latest U.S. unemployment data revealed the number of people staying on jobless benefits rose by 11,000 to a record 4.81 million in the last week of January. [ID:nN12444195]
Adding to investors' fears, the euro zone reported a record plunge in industrial output. [TOPWRAP]
"Risk aversion has returned to the market with full force," said Ole Hansen, senior manager at Denmark-based Saxo Bank. "That makes people seek out safe havens, which is reflected not only in the inflows into gold but also in the bonds market."
Record crude stocks forced U.S. oil futures down a third straight session and crude oil CLc1 on the New York Mercantile Exchange, or NYMEX, fell $1.68 to a near one-month low of $34.26 a barrel by 1:00 p.m. EST (1800 GMT).
Data showed oil stockpiles at Cushing, Oklahoma -- the world's biggest storage hub and the delivery point for U.S. crude futures -- had risen by last week to record of around 35 million barrels, or near operational capacity.
NYMEX crude prices were at all-time highs of above $147 a barrel in July before falling to as low as $32 since.
Traders said in the short-term, oil was being dominated by weak stock markets [.N] and the strong U.S. dollar, which was pressuring down most commodities denominated in the currency.
In copper, the main industrial metal, the most-active March futures contract HGH9 on NYMEX's metals division COMEX fell 3.6 cents to an intraday low of $1.5040 a lb.
On the London Metal Exchange, copper for delivery in three months MCU3 fell to as low as $3,344 a tonne before closing at $3,410, against Wednesday's $3,459.
"It was hope over reality," said Robin Bhar, a London-based metals analyst for Calyon. "Hope is that things are improving. Reality is they are not."
Coffee, cocoa and sugar were down between 2 and 4 percent each while soybean prices were off by almost half a percent. [SOF/L] [GRA/]
Only gold bucked the trend, joining other safe-havens -- or assets that seemed insulated from the financial crisis -- like bonds and the dollar. [US/] [USD/]
COMEX gold futures for April delivery GCJ9 rose $7.50 to a session peak of $952 an ounce -- a high since July 23.
The price of physical gold bullion XAU=, meanwhile, rose $11.35 to a session high of $949.70 as investors snapped up holdings in SPDR Gold Trust (GLD.N) -- the world's largest gold-backed, exchange-traded fund.
Data showed the physical bullion held by SPDR Gold Trust as a back-up for the gold securities it sold stood at a record 935.09 tonnes as of Feb. 11. XAUEXT-NYS-TT (Reporting by Barani Krishnan; Editing by Marguerita Choy)