LONDON, July 30: Oil prices surged to $61 per barrel in New York this week after a series of fires and explosions at refineries and platforms in the United States, the world’s biggest consumer of energy, and India. Metals benefited from a weaker dollar, with copper reaching a new record high point.

The Commodities Research Bureau’s index of 17 commodities rose to 310.75 points on Friday, from 303.05 points the previous week.

GOLD: Gold prices extended gains owing to a weaker dollar and speculative buying.

“It is only the currency markets... that are currently driving the metal’s price,” UBS analyst John Reade said.

A weaker dollar makes gold, which is priced in the US currency on world markets, more attractive to buyers using other currencies. Gold is also seen as a good hedge against fluctuations in the value of the dollar.

On the London Bullion Market, gold prices climbed to 429 dollars per ounce at the late fixing on Friday from 425 dollars the previous week.

SILVER: Silver prices rose in the wake of gold and copper.

“Silver followed gold’s movements with copper’s later rally adding to the metal’s tone,” said James Moore, an analyst at the specialist website TheBullionDesk.com.

On the London Bullion Market, silver prices rose to 7.145 dollars per ounce at the late fixing Friday from 7.115 dollars the previous week.

PLATINUM AND PALLADIUM: Platinum and palladium showed mixed fortunes.

The metals “failed to generate the upwards momentum seen in gold and silver”, Moore said

While platinum won support from higher demand after the recent revaluation of the yuan, palladium fell despite some speculative buying, he added.

By Friday, platinum prices rose to 898 dollars per ounce on the London Platinum and Palladium Market from 885.25 dollars the previous week.

Palladium prices stood at 192 dollars per ounce on Friday from 194 dollars.

BASE METALS: Base metals prices advanced, led by copper which struck fresh historic peaks.

“Copper gets more interesting and dangerous as each day passes,” said William Adams, an analyst with specialist website BaseMetals.com.

“Prices have now rallied from 2,960 dollars to 3,545 dollars since May 17, a jump of some 20 percent. Although copper can no doubt rise further while supply disruptions and low stocks prevail, the market is looking overbought,” he added.

Copper futures reached a historic record 3,545 dollars per tonne on Thursday, lifted by strikes by mine workers in Zambia and the United States, strong Chinese demand, and stockpiles at the lowest levels for 30 years in London.

By Friday, three-month copper prices jumped to 3,540 dollars per tonne on the London Metal Exchange from 3,414 dollars the previous week.

Three-month aluminium prices rose to 1,860.50 dollars per tonne Friday from 1,819 dollars.

Three-month nickel prices climbed to 14,230 dollars per tonne on Friday from 14,120 dollars.

Three-month lead prices gained to 852 dollars per tonne Friday from 823 dollars.

Three-month zinc prices extended to 1,261.50 dollars per tonne Friday from 1,217 dollars.

Three-month tin prices stood at 7,080 dollars per tonne Friday from 7,100 dollars.

OIL: World oil prices soared after a number of refinery disruptions in the United States and India.

Crude futures reached 61 dollars per barrel on Friday after an explosion at an oil refinery in Texas, in the southern United States, run by British energy giant BP. No one was injured in Thursday’s blast, although production was said to have fallen.

“What started the rally was the BP fire,” Alaron analyst Phil Flynn said.

An explosion at the refinery in March killed 15 people.

Oil futures reached a record 62.10 dollars per barrel in New York and 60.70 dollars in London on July 7 in the wake of fatal bombings in London.

Prices also won support from a fire at a small US refinery in Meraux, Louisiana, as well as a deadly blaze at an offshore oil platform near the Indian city of Mumbai.

At least 11 people have been confirmed dead in the fire at the Indian offshore oil platform fire. Oil Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar told parliament that 384 people had had to abandon the platform when it caught fire Wednesday.

State-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corp., which owns the platform, said 12 workers were still missing.

By Friday, New York’s light sweet crude for September delivery jumped to 60.95 dollars per barrel from 57.70 dollars the previous week.

RUBBER: Rubber prices steadied after reaching the highest level in 17 years the previous week on strong Asian demand.

“Prices have been a few days up, a few days down — typical speculator activity,” said Rachid Ahmed, a trader at Corrie Maccoll.

“The supply side is improving, but there’s been a hell of a lot of buying of this raw material.”

Tokyo’s September contract had reached 200 yen on July 22, the highest level since June 1988.

On TOCOM, Tokyo’s commodity exchange, natural rubber for September delivery stood at 199.60 yen on Friday, from 200 yen a week earlier.

Singapore’s RSS 3 September contract eased to 172 US cents on Friday, from 174.50 cents.

COCOA: Cocoa futures climbed after renewed violence in major producer Ivory Coast.

“Tensions in Ivory Coast remain high,” Refco analyst Ann Prendergast said.

“Typically, the cocoa market needs fire at its feet or the prospect of impending disaster to sustain an advance.”

At least 24 people were killed, including five police officers, during violence in the west African country over the weekend of July 23-24.

Ivory Coast, the world’s top cocoa producer, has been split in two since a failed coup against President Laurent Gbagbo in September 2002, pitting rebels from the Muslim-dominated north against the Christian-populated south.

COFFEE: Coffee prices rebounded slightly on buying by funds and speculators, after slumping the previous week in the absence of frosts in major exporter Brazil.

“The market is currently waiting for the fresh 2005/06 crop estimates from Brazil’s government on the 12th August, which is expected to be trimmed from 32.5 million 60-kilogramme bags forecast in April closer to the 31.9 million bags projected in December,” Sucden analyst Sam Tilley said.

SUGAR: Sugar prices firmed, supported by buying from Syria and China.

However, Refco’s Prendergast said “it may be tough for the market to continue its advance” amid profit-taking.

Speculators have cashed in after strong demand sent sugar futures surging to the highest levels for eight years in London and four and a half years in New York two weeks ago.

By Friday on LIFFE, the price of a tonne of white sugar for October delivery gained to 287 dollars from 286.10 dollars a week earlier.

On the CSCE in New York, a pound of unrefined sugar for October delivery stood at 9.88 US cents on Friday from 9.72 cents.

GRAINS AND SOYA: Grains and soya prices firmed in Chicago, supported by expectations of warmer and drier weather in the US Midwest.

Fimat analyst Dan Cekander said there would likely be a dry start to August.

On LIFFE, wheat for September delivery fell to 66.70 pounds per tonne on Friday from 68.05 pounds a week earlier.

In Chicago, the price of wheat for September delivery edged up to 332.25 US cents per bushel Friday from 332 cents.

COTTON: Cotton prices steadied amid some speculative buying.

“The lack of fresh news is keeping the market in check,” Refco’s Prendergast said.

New York’s December contract rose to 52.80 US cents per pound on Friday from 51.76 cents the previous week.

The Cotton Outlook Index of physical cotton stood at 54.15 cents on Thursday from 53.60 cents a week earlier.

WOOL: The wool market remained closed in Australia, the world’s biggest producer, as prices extended gains in Britain.

Australia’s wool market closed on July 21 for two weeks owing to the summer holiday period and reopens on August 1.

The Australian Eastern index closed at 7.27 Australian dollars per kilo on July 21.

The British Wooltops index rose to 417 pence on Thursday, from 412 pence the previous week.—AFP

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