* Sign of steady ECB rates pushes dollar lower vs euro * China's supportive trade data further fans risk appetite * Saudi output cuts boost oil, natgas up on bullish US draws By Barani Krishnan NEW YORK, Jan 10 Commodities rallied their most on Thursday since the start of the year as signs that European interest rates might hold pushed the dollar sharply lower against the euro, boosting raw materials priced in the U.S. currency. Supply and demand factors also influenced a run-up in crude oil and natural gas prices. London's Brent crude neared three-month high and U.S. crude hit a four-month peak before paring gains at the close on news that No. 1 oil producer Saudi Arabia had cut output. Supportive economic data from China further fanned expectations for oil demand. U.S. natural gas ended up the first time in four sessions, underpinned by a government report showing a weekly inventory withdrawal well above market expectations. In the currency markets, the euro hit a one-week peak against the dollar and catapulted to an 18-month high versus the yen after the European Central Bank gave no indication of cutting rates. Robust Chinese export data also helped assuage concerns about global growth, pushing the euro higher. The Thomson Reuters-Jefferies CRB index settled up nearly 1 percent. The last time the commodities bellwether rose that much was on Dec. 26. BROADEST RUN-UP SINCE YEAR'S START It was also the index's broadest rally since the year began, with 13 of the CRB's 19 markets finishing in positive territory. U.S. natural gas rose nearly 3 percent to lead the run-up. Silver, aluminium and cocoa gained about 2 percent each while sugar, coffee and gold all climbed more than 1 percent. Even so, some analysts expressed skepticism that the upward momentum would hold, noting that trading volumes were not encouraging. "This week is the first full week of trading in 2013 and volumes are not spectacular," said Robin Bhar, an industrial metals analyst at Societe Generale. "There is still caution around, and I think some of the rallies may be not sustainable." Among key commodities, benchmark Brent crude oil closed up 0.1 percent at $111.89 a barrel after rallying to a 12-week high of $113.29. U.S. crude finished up 0.8 percent at $93.82 after reaching a Sept. 19 peak of $94.70. Oil prices surged after Saudi Arabia slashed crude production by 700,000 barrels per day to 9 million bpd during the last two months of 2012, according to industry sources. Major customers for Saudi crude said the cuts were driven by lower demand. In copper, the three-month futures contract on the London Metal Exchange ended up 0.4 percent at $8,110 a tonne. In New York, March copper on COMEX finished up 1 percent at $3.7090 a lb. Copper prices rose after data showing the value of exports in top metals buyer China growing 14.1 percent last month compared with a year earlier, racing past the forecasts of analysts polled by Reuters, who had expected annual growth of 4 just percent. U.S. gold futures for February settled up 1.4 percent at $1,678 an ounce on Thursday, notching its biggest one-day gain in 2013, as signs that the European Central Bank will not cut interest rates any time soon boosted bullion buying. Prices at 4:18 p.m. EST (2118 GMT) LAST/ NET PCT YTD CLOSE CHG CHG CHG US crude 93.87 0.77 0.8% 2.2% Brent crude 111.75 -0.01 0.0% 0.6% Natural gas 3.193 0.080 2.6% -4.7% US gold 1678.00 22.50 1.4% 0.1% Gold 1673.44 16.10 1.0% -0.1% US Copper 370.90 3.85 1.0% 1.5% LME Copper 8115.00 35.00 0.4% 2.3% Dollar 79.796 -0.761 -0.9% 3.9% US corn 698.75 4.50 0.7% 0.1% US soybeans 1417.50 -2.25 -0.2% -0.1% US wheat 744.50 -1.00 -0.1% -4.3% US Coffee 149.65 1.75 1.2% 4.1% US Cocoa 2269.00 46.00 2.1% 1.5% US Sugar 18.96 0.24 1.3% -2.8% US silver 30.918 0.669 2.2% 2.3% US platinum 1632.40 34.60 2.2% 6.1% US palladium 702.20 14.00 2.0% -0.2%
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