* Surprise drop in U.S. jobless claims lifts oil, stocks
* U.S. crude gains on improving economic outlook after data
* Wheat up for sixth session on robust livestock demand
* Copper firms on healthier industrial demand prospects
By Carole Vaporean
NEW YORK, March 14 Most commodities rose on
Thursday, as stronger U.S. labor market data encouraged
investors about the outlook for demand for raw materials in the
world's largest economy.
U.S. oil futures and London's benchmark Brent crude oil
prices settled higher, Brent's first rise after four sessions of
declines. Wheat, corn and copper also firmed after U.S. data
showed the number of Americans filing new claims for
unemployment benefits declined for a third straight week.
But gold was down for most of the session, and other
precious metals slipped, with investors betting on riskier
assets in light of the improving demand outlook.
"The positive economic data with the stronger-than-expected
jobless claims bodes well for risk-on assets-meaning stocks and
commodities--as the outlook for demand improves," said Adam
Sarhan, CEO at New York-based Sarhan Capital.
Investors were surprised by the U.S. Labor Department data
showing a decline in unemployment claims. The news also boosted
U.S. stocks, with the Dow Jones industrial average
extending its rally to 10 days in a row. (Full Story)
"Every week that claims stay down, it confirms it's not an
anomaly, and this is pretty important," said Jack De Gan, chief
investment officer at Harbor Advisory Corp in Portsmouth, New
Hampshire. "The downward trend in jobless claims is, "one of the
reasons the market has been strong year to date," he said.
The Thomson Reuters-Jefferies CRB index, a
bellwether for commodity prices, was 0.49 percent higher late in
the session, near the session high at 296. On Wednesday, the
session high for the gauge was its loftiest level since Feb. 20.
U.S. oil futures rose to the highest settlement price in two
weeks, settling 51 cents higher at $93.03 per barrel.
Brent crude for April closed 90 cents per barrel higher,
or 0.83 percent, at $109.42 as the contract expired.
"As long as we have signs that economic conditions are not
going to slow, we'll see improvement," said Gene McGillian,
analyst and broker with Tradition Energy in Stamford,
Stock market gains also helped support crude oil prices. The
United States is the world's largest energy consumer.
While copper was helped by the sturdy jobs numbers, gold and
other precious metals were pressured by sellers seeking higher
yields in other commodity markets and in equities.
April benchmark gold futures in New York eked out
small gains of $2.30 at $1,590.70 an ounce at the end, but were
lower for most of the session along with silver and platinum
COMEX March copper futures added 0.4 percent to
settle at $3.5235 per lb.
The healthier jobs data pulled the dollar up, which limited
gains of many dollar-denominated commodities. But by the close,
the U.S. currency slipped off the seven-month high it achieved
earlier against a basket of currencies, helped by a narrower
U.S. current account deficit.
U.S. wheat futures rose for a sixth straight session on
robust demand from domestic livestock feeders and exporters,
which booked their biggest weekly sales in two years last week.
Corn prices climbed for the fifth time in six sessions,
supported by concerns about tight old-crop supplies and a weaker
U.S. dollar, which makes the grain more competitive on the world
market. But, Soybeans fell for a third straight session on South
American harvest pressure and concerns about slowing import
demand from top buyer China.
Prices at 4:59 p.m. EST (2059 GMT)
LAST/ NET PCT YTD
CLOSE CHG CHG CHG
US crude 93.22 0.70 0.8% 1.5%
Brent crude 109.47 0.95 0.9% -1.5%
Natural gas 3.812 0.132 3.6% 13.8%
US gold 1590.70 2.30 0.1% -5.1%
Gold 1589.88 2.59 0.2% -5.0%
US Copper 352.35 1.40 0.4% -3.5%
LME Copper 7800.00 12.50 0.2% -1.7%
Dollar 82.591 -0.308 -0.4% 7.6%
US corn 732.75 -8.50 -1.2% 4.9%
US soybeans 1457.25 -17.75 -1.2% 2.7%
US wheat 714.25 7.00 1.0% -8.2%
US Coffee 139.65 -0.95 -0.7% -2.9%
US Cocoa 2130.00 -17.00 -0.8% -4.7%
US Sugar 18.84 0.04 0.2% -3.4%
US silver 28.807 -0.151 -0.5% -4.7%
US platinum 1589.80 -3.30 -0.2% 3.3%
US palladium 770.75 -0.50 -0.1% 9.6%