COMMODITIES-Gold down for 5th month in row; Brent oil slides too

Thu Feb 28, 2013 10:37pm GMT

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* Gold in longest bearish streak in 16 years
    * Oil has sharpest monthly loss since June
    * Copper slides month since October
    * Natgas, soybeans up for the month

    By Barani Krishnan
    NEW YORK, Feb 28 (Reuters) - Gold ended Thursday's session
lower to produce its longest run of monthly declines in more
than 16 years, while oil's benchmark Brent crude finished
February with its sharpest monthly loss since June.
    Copper, another key commodity, closed with its
biggest monthly drop since October, reinforcing the price
declines seen across most commodity markets this month. 
    Uncertainties about the global economy had weighed on metal
and oil prices and the broader commodity complex in February.
The Thomson Reuters-Jefferies CRB index settled flat
for Thursday, but was down nearly 4 percent on the month.
    In January, the CRB rose 3 percent, helped by stronger oil,
corn and cotton prices.
    Analysts said the outlook for March was cloudy, as financial
markets braced for sweeping U.S. budget cuts and another fiscal
crisis that the International Monetary Fund warned could slow
the U.S. and world economies.
    
    FOCUS IS ON SEQUESTER
    On the positive side, data on Thursday showed the U.S.
economy grew slightly in the fourth quarter, reversing an
earlier estimate showing contraction. A drop in new claims for
unemployment benefits last week added to a string of data that
suggested the world's top economy improved early this year.
    Even so, some analysts had forecast a higher revision to the
fourth quarter GDP data and the jobless claims data extended a
trend that had been expected.
    In the immediate term, "we think investor focus will be on
the sequester", Edward Meir, analyst at INTL FC Stone said,
referring to the $85 billion in U.S. budget cuts due from March
1, absent a highly unlikely political deal between the
Democratic and Republican parties. 
     
    GOLD LOSES BIG-TIME IN FEB
    Gold prices fell 5 percent in February, ending down without
a break from October in the longest string of monthly declines
since 1996.
    Bullion holdings in gold-backed exchange traded funds also
posted sharp monthly losses.
    Gold's losses have come at the benefit of stock prices as
some investors turned to equity markets instead. The S&P 500
 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average for U.S.
stocks are within striking distance of record highs.
    "Investors are reassessing where they have their money
allocated at, and they are now focusing on the equity markets
which have been holding up very firm," said Phillip Streible,
senior commodities trader at futures brokerage RJ O'Brien.
    In Thursday's session, spot gold fell 1.1 percent to
$1,578.86 per ounce by 3:18 PM ( 2018 GMT).
    U.S. gold futures for April delivery settled down
$17.60 to $1,578.10 an ounce. 
    
    ECONOMY/DEMAND WORRIES WEIGH ON CRUDE
    In crude oil, the London-traded Brent fell to a
six-week low near $111 a barrel for the session, capping a
month-end sell-off that took almost $8 off the market in two
weeks as worries about the global economy and oil demand
resurfaced.
    "The oil market had been unsuccessfully trying to hold above
this week's lows, and the worries about the less-than-expected
GDP number have entered the equation," said Gene McGillian,
analyst at Tradition Energy in Stamford, Connecticut.
    Brent closed down 49 cents at $111.38 a barrel, having
earlier touched a low of $110.87, the lowest since Jan. 18. For
the month, Brent lost 3.6 percent in February.
    U.S. crude fell 71 cents to $92.05 a barrel, ending
February down after three straight monthly gains. It dropped as
low as $91.57 for the session and lost 5.6 percent over the
month. 
    
    NATGAS, SOY BUCK TREND WITH FEB GAINS
    Not all commodities were down for February.
    Natural gas had its first monthly gain in four months as
cold U.S. weather spiked up demand for heating.
    The front-month gas contract in New York settled at $3.486
per million British thermal units, up 1.5 percent on the day and
4.4 percent on the month. It was the first monthly increase
since October, when prices rose 11.2 percent. 
    Soybeans edged higher after a rally on Thursday spurred by
strong export demand for U.S. grown soy.
    The front-month soybean contract in Chicago settled up
16-3/4 cents, or 1.2 percent, at $14.74-1/4 a bushel. For the
month, the contract rose 0.5 percent. 
    
 Prices at 5:31 p.m. EST (2231 GMT)      
                             LAST/      NET    PCT     YTD
                             CLOSE      CHG    CHG     CHG
 US crude                    91.83    -0.71  -0.8%    0.0%
 Brent crude                110.99    -0.88  -0.8%   -0.1%
 Natural gas                 3.486    0.052   1.5%    4.0%
 
 US gold                   1578.10   -17.60  -1.1%   -5.8%
 Gold                      1579.15    -0.61   0.0%   -5.7%
 US Copper                  352.75    -1.75  -0.5%   -3.4%
 LME Copper                7815.00   -55.00  -0.7%   -1.5%
 Dollar                     81.969    0.367   0.5%    6.8%
                             
 
 US corn                    719.50    10.00   1.4%    3.0%
 US soybeans               1474.25    16.75   1.2%    3.9%
 US wheat                   707.75     3.50   0.5%   -9.0%
 
 US Coffee                  142.65     0.25   0.2%   -0.8%
 US Cocoa                  2146.00     4.00   0.2%   -4.0%
 US Sugar                    18.38     0.54   3.0%   -5.8%
 
 US silver                  28.395   -0.548  -1.9%   -6.1%
 US platinum               1583.50   -16.60  -1.0%    2.9%
 US palladium               732.60   -10.55  -1.4%    4.2%
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