A summary of trading in key commodities markets overseas:
Global oil prices fell sharply after news of a weak crude demand on the United States, which is the world's top consumer.
West Texas Intermediate (WTI) for April closed down $US1.88 at $101.45 a barrel.
Brent North Sea crude for delivery in April was down $US1.66 at $US107.64 a barrel in London at 0740 AEDT.
The US Department of Energy announced in its weekly energy report that American crude inventories rose by 1.4 million barrels in the week ending February 28.
That was stronger than analysts' consensus forecasts for a smaller gain of 1.0 million barrels and indicated weaker-than-expected demand.
Gold gained for the second time in three days as weaker US economic growth and Russia-Ukraine tension underpin demand for haven assets.
US service industries expanded in February at the slowest pace in four years, while companies added fewer workers than economists projected, private reports in the US showed today. US Secretary of State John Kerry met Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who said the western-backed government in Kiev no longer rules over Crimea.
Gold futures for April delivery rose 0.2 per cent to settle at US$1,340.30 an ounce at 1.36pm (0436 Thursday AEDT) on the Comex in New York. Prices reached $US1,355 on March 3, the highest since October 30.
Eight of the Feds 12 districts reported improved levels of activity, but in most cases the increases were characterised as modest to moderate, the Fed said today in its Beige Book business survey. The New York and Philadelphia districts reported declines that were mostly attributed to the unusually severe weather experienced in those regions.
Copper futures settled slightly lower on the London Metal Exchange (LME), losing ground following the release of weaker-than-expected US manufacturing data.
At the PM kerb close on Wednesday, LME three-month copper was down 0.3 per cent at $US7,030 a metric ton.
Aluminium finished 0.4 per cent higher at $US1,775 a ton.
The US non-manufacturing sector saw sharply slower activity last month and employment contracted, according to data released on Wednesday by the Institute for Supply Management. The ISM's nonmanufacturing purchasing managers index fell to 51.6 last month, below an estimate of 53.5 by forecasters polled by The Wall Street Journal.
Earlier in the day, a survey of private-sector hiring showed the economy adding jobs at a slower-than-expected pace in February.
Keep reading - next article