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Crude oil prices slump

Reported by AAP
Monday, March 14, 2011
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ENERGY

Crude oil prices slumped on Friday after a the earthquake in Japan, the world's third-largest economy, raising fears of a shock to the global economic recovery.

Traders eyed lower consumption in Japan, the world's third-largest oil importer and consumer, after a week of worrying about prices jumping due to Middle East instability.

New York's main contract, light sweet crude for April delivery, closed $1.54 lower at $US101.16 a barrel. In London, Brent North Sea crude for April settled at $US113.84, down $1.59.

Financial markets were shaken after the earthquake - the seventh biggest in history - hit Japan, unleashing a tsunami that battered Japan's northeast coast and stretched across the Pacific.

The temblor automatically shut down operations at Japan's nuclear reactors and the government declared a state of emergency at a nuclear power plant in Fukushima.

The world's third-largest economy, Japan is heavily dependent on imported oil.

The New York futures contract tumbled below $US100 before paring its losses by the market close.

Continued fighting in Libya between the forces loyal to leader Muammar Gaddafi and rebels also weighed on the market.

Loyalist forces launched at least two air strikes near the key oil port of Ras Lanuf.

In Saudi Arabia, the world's biggest oil exporter, "day of rage" street protests called by Facebook activists failed to materialise.

But scores of protesters were on the streets for a second day in Al-Qateef, a Shi'ite stronghold in the predominantly Sunni country.

Saudi Arabia has said it is committed to the stability of the oil market and to ensuring that oil supplies remain available amid the Libyan unrest.

PRECIOUS METALS

Gold remained near the day's highs on Friday after the dollar weakened against the euro and as investors sought the precious metal's safety after Japan's earthquake and with Middle East violence rising heading into the weekend.

The earthquake proved a double-edged sword for gold prices. While investors wanted a tangible asset amid the chaos wreaked by the worst earthquake in Japan, the disaster sent oil prices falling, which lessened the need for gold as a hedge against inflation.

Spot gold advanced to $1,419.85 an ounce by 3:18 pm EST (2018 GMT), up from $1,412.59 an ounce at Thursday's closing bid. US gold settled at $1,421.80, up $9.30.

Despite gains on Friday, gold booked its deepest weekly loss since mid-January, falling earlier in the week with oil, as some players unwound positions taken out as an inflation hedge when oil prices advanced to highs last seen in 2008.

While analysts said they thought the earthquake in Japan would have little significant impact on gold prices, some said a few investors were impelled to buy out of fear when the death toll, damage assessment and after shocks continued to rise.

Mostly, they said the uncertainty surrounding both the earthquake and Middle East drew investors seeking a tangible investment before leaving for the weekend.

While prices ended calmly after a tumultuous day, investors wanted the protection of gold in case of weekend flare ups.

Spot silver was at $35.82 an ounce, up from Thursday's closing bid at $35.25 an ounce, having rallied to a 31-year peak above $36 on Monday.

Spot platinum rallied to $1,779.50 an ounce, from $1,760.24 last on Thursday. But, palladium slipped to $757.50 late on Friday, down from $765.50 on Thursday.

INDUSTRIAL METALS

Copper steadied by the close on Friday, recovering from an earlier three-month low, as investors reassessed the likely fallout from Japan's massive earthquake.

An acceleration in Chinese inflation in February only added to the negative mood across the base complex, extending copper's weekly losses to as much as 10 per cent before the sell-off began to show signs of fatigue.

Despite the late recovery, copper prices still managed to suffer their biggest weekly decline since early June 2010.

London Metal Exchange (LME) three-month copper eased $1 to close at $9,190 per tonne, recovering from an intraday low at $8,992, its lowest since mid-December. In after-hours trade, gains extended to near session highs at $9,260.

COMEX copper for May delivery settled up 1.00 cent at $4.2075 per lb, near the upper end of its $4.0860 to $4.2195 session range.

The 8.9 magnitude quake that struck the northeast coast of Japan, the world's third largest economy, triggered a tsunami and killed at least 1,000 people, while power plants, oil refiners and ports were shut down.

Japan's two major copper smelters shut down operations due to power outages, raising concerns about supply disruptions.

On Thursday, data showed China's imports of copper fell 35 per cent to 235,469 tonnes in February, from 364,240 tonnes the previous month.

Inventories of copper on the London metal exchange rose 400 tonnes to 425,875 tonnes, data showed. Copper stocks have increased by over a fifth since mid-December.

As a result, copper was pegged at a $18.50 contango, which is a discount for cash material versus three-month material, compared with a $70 backwardation, or the opposite structure of a premium for cash, in mid-December.

23/12/2014 02:35Sydney, Australia. 23 December,2014
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