* CRB extends April's 3 pct loss on worrying US, China data * Brent crude, LME copper down about 3 pct in session * Wheat tanks too on profit-taking By Barani Krishnan NEW YORK, May 1Crude oil, gold and copper fell sharply on Wednesday in their first session for May as renewed concerns over economic growth in China and the United States pulled commodities lower in a month historically known for weak prices. Raw materials markets were already carrying losses from April before Wednesday's trading, with oil and copper down about 7 percent in their sharpest monthly declines in nearly a year. The trend deepened in the latest session, with the two markets slipping another 3 percent after data showing a surprise drop in Chinese manufacturing orders in April that cast concerns about growth in one of the world's top commodities consumers. U.S. manufacturing growth also slowed in April, an industry report showed, adding to signs that the No. 1 economy cooled as the second quarter got underway. "It's the same picture of relative slow demand," said Olivier Jakob, an analyst at Petromatrix. Benchmark Brent crude traded out of London returned below the key $100 a barrel mark as government data showed crude oil inventories in the United States rose to a record high. In copper, the three-month contract on the London Metal Exchange broke the $7,000 a tonne support level. The spot price of gold fell more than 2 percent, heading for its largest loss in two weeks. Agricultural markets tanked with industrial commodities such as energy and metals. Wheat, one of April's stronger performers with a 5-percent gain for the month, fell more than 1 percent on Wednesday on profit-taking. Soybeans lost more than 2 percent. The Thomson Reuters-Jefferies CRB index, a bellwether for commodity prices, shed 1.3 percent by 11:20 a.m. EDT (1520 GMT), after finishing April about 3 percent lower. Eleven of the CRB's 19 components were in negative territory, while few like cocoa and cotton bucked the trend with a rally of more than 2 percent. May has historically been a month for weak performance across financial markets, as traders go on holiday with the advent of warmer weather in the United States and other parts of the northern hemisphere. That weakness is sometimes exacerbated by concerns about the economy, like now, and how demand for raw materials would fare. The CRB index lost nearly 11 percent in May last year while in the previous year, it fell almost 6 percent. Signs of stagnating growth in China, euro zone debt trouble and uncertainty about further U.S. economic stimulus led commodity markets to one of their sharpest sell-offs in mid-April. Brent crude fell below $100 a barrel the first time in nine months, gold had its biggest loss in dollar terms and copper sank to an 18-month low at the height of the tumble. Prices have since recovered but were in a range as investors tried to figure out if policy makers at the U.S. Federal Reserve would affirm the central bank's economic stimulus plans in meetings scheduled this week. Bond-buying by the Fed had fueled investment activity in commodities for more than two years now. Investors were also looking out for a possible rate cut by the European Central Bank this week as the ECB tries to shore up flagging growth in the euro zone. Prices at 11:36 a.m. EST (1536 GMT) LAST NET PCT YTD CHG CHG CHG US crude 90.50 -2.96 -3.2% -1.4% Brent crude 99.21 -3.16 -3.1% -10.7% Natural gas 4.421 0.078 1.8% 31.9% Gold 1443.36 -33.24 -2.3% -13.8% US Copper 308.60 -10.20 -3.2% -15.5% LME Copper 6819.25 -235.75 -3.4% -14.0% Dollar 81.566 -0.178 -0.2% 6.3% CRB <.TRJCRB 0.000 0.000 0.0% -100.0% US corn 682.25 -1.00 -0.2% -2.3% US soybeans 1436.50 -31.25 -2.1% 1.3% US wheat 713.00 -8.75 -1.2% -8.4% US Coffee 133.30 -1.80 -1.3% -7.3% US Cocoa 2416.00 48.00 2.0% 8.1% US Sugar 17.58 -0.02 -0.1% -9.9% US silver 23.300 -0.885 -3.7% -22.9% US platinum 1474.90 -32.30 -2.1% -4.1% US palladium 683.00 -14.80 -2.1% -2.9%
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