Commodities mostly rose last week in holiday-shortened trade, with oil and base metal prices rebounding as the dollar sank on weak US economic growth and the uncertain interest rate outlook.
The world’s biggest economy posted first quarter GDP growth of just 0.2%, well below the 1.0% rate forecast by analysts and sharply down from the 2.2% pace in the previous three months.
“On the macroeconomic front, we received poor US economic data which added further pressure to the US dollar,” noted Sucden analyst Myrto Sokou.
“The softer dollar provided upside momentum for most commodity prices.”
The euro soared to a two-month high of $1.1285 on Friday in the wake of the poor data, and after the US Federal Reserve also left open the timing of an interest rate hike. A weaker greenback makes dollar-priced commodities cheaper for buyers using stronger currencies, which tends to stimulate demand.
OIL: World oil prices advanced to new 2015 peaks, winning traction from the first drop in US stockpiles for six months, and as the dollar weakened against the euro.
“Crude oil built on gains made after Wednesday’s inventory data to make new 2015 highs,” said CMC Markets analyst Jasper Lawler.
The latest jump came after the US Department of Energy inventory report showed a 500,000-barrel drop in petroleum stocks to 61.7mn barrels at the key Cushing, Oklahoma trading hub.
While the decline was modest, it marked the first drop since late November. Traders are taking the decline as a sign producers are cutting back at key US petroleum sites, analysts said. Both oil contracts rose by about a fifth through April owing to several factors, including concerns about unrest in Yemen, the weakening dollar and fewer US rigs in operation to produce the black gold.
However, prices remain well down after plunging almost 60% between June and January on the back of a global supply glut and ramped up production.
By Friday on London’s Intercontinental Exchange, Brent North Sea crude for delivery in June rose to $66.19 a barrel from $65.21 the previous week.
On the New York Mercantile Exchange, West Texas Intermediate or light sweet crude for June rallied to $59.12 compared with $57.22.
PRECIOUS METALS: Gold fell, dragging most precious metals lower as dealers digested the US rate outlook.
The Federal Reserve left open its timeframe for a rise in ultra-low interest rates on Wednesday, following a winter slowdown that stalled US economic growth.
The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) said it believed the first-quarter slump reflected “in part” transitory factors, and that the economy should resume expanding at a “moderate pace”.
But after more than a year pointing to mid-2015 for when it would begin raising the federal funds rate, the FOMC stopped offering its “forward guidance” and made clear it would wait for more signs of economic progress before the first rate rise in nearly nine years.
The decision left uncertain the path toward a slow series of rate rises that are likely to shift global markets and support the stronger dollar.
“The gold price hardly profited at all from the weak US economic data and the resulting significant depreciation of the US dollar,” said Commerzbank analysts.
They added: “The weak US data would have led one to expect the US Federal Reserve to start raising interest rates somewhat later.
“However, it has removed what is known as its Forward Guidance—the promise to keep interest rates low long-term—from its statement, thus leaving the option of rate hikes open. The Fed appeared relatively unconcerned by the weak data of late and believes these are partly due to temporary factors.” By Friday on the London Bullion Market, the price of gold slid to $1,175.95 an ounce from $1,183 the previous week.
Silver firmed to $16.17 an ounce from $15.83.
On the London Platinum and Palladium Market, platinum dipped to $1,127 an ounce from $1,128.
Palladium eased to $772 an ounce from $774.
BASE METALS: Base or industrial metals forged higher as dealers also took their cue from the dollar, and from hopes of fresh Chinese economic stimulus.
“Macroeconomic data has been rather mixed, offering the metal markets little clear direction either way and leaving them to look to the dollar again,” said UniCredit analysts in a note to clients.
“And with the US currency somewhat softer of late, the fundamentally weaker metals have found support and the stronger ones have extended gains.”
By Friday on the London Metal Exchange, copper for delivery in three months rallied to $6,343 a tonne from $6,040 the previous week.
Three-month aluminium rose to $1,908 a tonne from $1,821.
Three-month lead increased to $2,114.50 a tonne from $2,073.
Three-month tin advanced to $16,050 a tonne from $15,765.
Three-month nickel increased to $13,780 a tonne from $13,025.
Three-month zinc edged higher to $2,324 a tonne from $2,249.
SUGAR: Prices also crept higher.
By Friday on LIFFE, London’s futures exchange, a tonne of white sugar for delivery in August rose to $377.20 from $370.80 a week earlier.
On ICE Futures US, unrefined sugar for July increased to 13.16 US cents a pound from 13.06 US cents.
COCOA: Futures climbed despite news of a record harvest in key producer Ivory Coast.
By Friday on LIFFE, cocoa for delivery in July rose to £2,010 a tonne from £1,961 the previous week.
On the ICE Futures US exchange, cocoa for July increased to $2,938 a tonne from $2,846.
COFFEE: Prices drifted lower in the absence of any major market-moving news.
By Friday on ICE Futures, Arabica for delivery in July fell to 137.30 US cents a pound from 141.85 cents the previous week.
On LIFFE, Robusta for July declined to $1,792 a tonne from $1,820.
RUBBER: Prices firmed in holiday-shortened deals.
By Thursday, the Malaysian Rubber Board’s benchmark SMR20 rose to 145.35 US cents a kilo from 141.20 US cents a week ago.