COMMODITIES-US crude hits 2013 lows; natgas rallies
* Oversupply, slowing China growth weigh on oil prices * Gold down as holdings in SPDR ETF continue to decline * Copper up on bargain-hunting activity * Natgas rallies on cold weather; sugar, coffee up too By Barani Krishnan NEW YORK, March 4 (Reuters) - U.S. crude oil hit its lowest level in 2013 and settled down for a third straight session on Monday on signs of an over-supplied market and slowing China growth, while gold fell as demand waned for bullion-backed exchange-traded funds. Copper rebounded from a three-month low on bargain-hunting activity, joining a host of other commodities that bucked the trend in oil and gold. Natural gas and arabica coffee each rose about 2 percent or more to lift the 19-commodity Thomson Reuters-Jefferies CRB index to its best close in more than a week. U.S. gas prices rose on cold weather across most of the United States. Coffee gained on short-covering and commercial buying. OIL DOWN ON CHINA, RISING STOCKPILES U.S. crude oil futures fell in reaction to slowing growth in China and evidence of rising crude stockpiles in the United States. China reported over the weekend that its services sector expanded at the slowest pace in five months in February, and factory growth also cooled to multi-month lows. In the United States, automatic government spending cuts, known as the "sequester," were triggered on Friday as lawmakers failed to agree on a resolution to prevent them. According to the International Monetary Fund, the U.S. spending cuts could cost the world's biggest oil consumer about 0.5 percent of its economic growth, a factor that could weigh on global oil demand. Concerns over the prospects of the euro zone's recovery were highlighted as the region's sentiment tumbled in March, breaking a six-month trend of gains. "Economic sentiment has shifted, and we're also seeing the first stages of long liquidation in the oil market. Money managers had increased their exposure (to oil) a lot over a ten week period," said energy analyst Tim Evans at Citi Futures in New York. "They are now recognizing that we don't have physical demand to justify higher price levels." U.S. crude oil's front-month contract fell 56 cents to settle at $90.12 a barrel. It slid below $90 during the session, the first time since December, and has lost around $8 over the last month. London-traded Brent crude ended down 31 cents at $110.09 a barrel, falling for a fifth straight session. GOLD DOWN AS ETF DEMAND SLIPS Gold prices eased as demand waned for gold-backed exchange-traded funds and investors continued to digest the effect of wide-ranging U.S. government spending cuts on bullion. Data showed holdings of the world's largest gold-backed ETF, the SPDR Gold Trust GLD, posted a ninth consecutive daily decline on Friday. "February marked the largest monthly outflow across physically backed gold exchange-traded products. Continued net redemptions at this pace pose the largest downside risk to prices, in our view," Suki Cooper, precious metals strategist at Barclays Capital, said in a note. Spot gold XAU= was down 0.1 percent at $1,573.46 per ounce by 4:04 p.m. EST (2104 GMT). COPPER REBOUNDS FROM 3-MONTH LOW Copper rose from the three-month lows hit in the previous session, but gains were kept in check by a political stalemate in the United States and Italy, and by plans in top consumer China for tighter property sector controls. Three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange CMCU3 ended at $7,725 a tonne, up from Friday's close of $7,700, when it fell in intraday trade to its lowest in more than three months at $7,652. China, which accounts for 40 percent of refined copper demand, could increase required down payments and loan rates for buyers of second homes in cities where prices are rising too quickly, in its latest move to contain housing costs. Copper is used extensively in construction for wiring and plumbing. Investors also had to contend with the aftermath of an inconclusive election in Italy that has cast doubt on the euro zone's austerity-led solution to its debt crisis, and with U.S. spending cuts that threaten to dampen growth in the world's largest economy. "There's awful lot of surprises this year and none of them good. Relative to original expectations (U.S. spending cuts) could easily knock 1 to 1.5 percentage points off growth," said Nic Brown, head of commodities research at Natixis. On China, he added: "Real estate has been a very important part of Chinese growth and for the authorities to be clamping down on it even if the rest of the economy is doing well, this is a dent in expectations for Chinese growth." Prices at 5:11 p.m. EST (2211 GMT) LAST/ NET PCT YTD CLOSE CHG CHG CHG US crude 90.25 -0.43 -0.5% -1.7% Brent crude 110.20 -0.20 -0.2% -0.8% Natural gas 3.529 0.073 2.1% 5.3% US gold 1572.40 0.10 0.0% -6.2% Gold 1573.60 0.26 0.0% -6.0% US Copper 348.30 0.15 0.0% -4.6% LME Copper 7725.00 22.00 0.3% -2.6% Dollar 82.185 -0.128 -0.2% 7.1% US corn 723.00 -1.25 -0.2% 3.5% US soybeans 1490.25 25.75 1.8% 5.0% US wheat 696.00 -17.25 -2.4% -10.5% US Coffee 146.65 3.30 2.3% 2.0% US Cocoa 2056.00 -26.00 -1.2% -8.1% US Sugar 18.08 0.17 0.9% -7.3% US silver 28.496 0.006 0.0% -5.7% US platinum 1566.20 -7.30 -0.5% 1.8% US palladium 714.45 -5.95 -0.8% 1.6%
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