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Oil market strikes four-month peaks

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Crude oil prices spiked to four-month peaks this week, energised by the weak dollar, mostly upbeat global economic data and Middle East tensions particularly in Syria, while other commodities mainly rose.

The European single currency rallied to $1.3711 -- reaching a point last seen on November 14, 2011 -- lifted by the brighter eurozone outlook, dealers said.

A weak greenback tends to stimulate demand for dollar-priced commodities, which becomes cheaper for buyers using stronger currencies like the euro. That tends to boost demand and spark higher prices.

Oil won another boost on Friday as healthy manufacturing data in top crude consumer the United States offset a mixed non-farm payrolls report.

The Institute for Supply Management's manufacturing sector index rose to 53.1 from 50.2 in December as new orders and inventories picked up, expanding for the second straight month.

OIL: The market forged a series of multi-month pinnacles with Brent crude prices rallying on Friday to $117.07 per barrel -- which was the highest level since September 14, 2012.

New York crude had meanwhile surged on Wednesday to $98.24 per barrel, which was a level last witnessed on September 17.

"Oil prices broke through $117 per barrel this week, due to tension in Syria and positive manufacturing data from two of the world's largest economies -- China and the United States," said Inenco analyst Joe Conlan.

"US GDP contracting in the first quarter initially came as a shock to the market."

However, he argued that the global outlook was bullish following recent news that German investor confidence had risen for the first time in four months.

"I predict that oil could get as high as $120 per barrel on the positive economic sentiment in the market."

Prices had also jumped higher on Wednesday as the dollar weakened following this week's Federal Reserve monetary policy announcement, and after largely upbeat economic news in Europe and elsewhere.

"There has been a lot of good news. Europe is on a brighter note, and the US has deferred debt ceiling talks. General optimism continues to buoy the market," added Yang Weiming, premium client manager at IG Markets Singapore.

US lawmakers on Thursday suspended the country's debt ceiling until May, giving them three months to hold high-stakes budget negotiations to avert a potentially catastrophic default.

And while data showed the US economy shrank 0.1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012, there were upbeat signs, with private consumption, business investment and housing all seeing growth.

In Europe, eurozone economic sentiment improved across all sectors in January, according to the European Commission.

By Friday on the New York Mercantile Exchange, West Texas Intermediate (WTI) or light sweet crude for delivery in March soared to $97.24 a barrel from $95.70 a week earlier.

On London's Intercontinental Exchange, Brent North Sea crude for March jumped to $116.82 a barrel compared with $113.17 the previous week.

PRECIOUS METALS: Prices advanced on the struggling dollar after the Fed opted to keep its ultra-loose monetary policy unchanged.

"Dealers (are positioning) themselves in the precious metal as a hedge against the potentially inflationary stimulus pumped in by the central banks," said CMC Markets analyst Nick Dale-Lace.

The US central bank decided Thursday to keep its record-low key interest rate between zero and 0.25 percent, as expected, to push down long-term interest rates to boost the economy.

The Fed added it would continue bond and mortgage security purchases, increased from $40 billion to $85 billion a month in December, to support the economy -- news that stoked inflation worries and weighed on the dollar.

By late Friday on the London Bullion Market, gold rose to $1,669 an ounce from $1,660 a week earlier.

Silver eased to $31.43 an ounce from $31.56.

On the London Platinum and Palladium Market, platinum firmed to $1,687 an ounce from $1,678.

Palladium increased to $745 an ounce from $725.

BASE METALS: Base or industrial metals climbed as traders also seized on the Chinese data, with star performer copper nearing a four-month high point.

"Copper has delivered its biggest weekly gain of 2013 as speculation of increased demand sparked by the Chinese recovery story puts a stronger bid under the price, with Chinese manufacturing expanding for the fourth consecutive month in January," said CMC Markets analyst Matt Basi.

Official figures showed that China's official purchasing managers' index (PMI) came in at 50.4 in January. That marked a slowdown from 50.6 in the previous month but still showed growth.

The PMI is a widely watched barometer of the health of China's economy, with a reading above 50 indicating expansion while anything below points to contraction.

A separate PMI from British bank HSBC came in at a two-year high of 52.3 for last month, up from a preliminary 51.9 released last week and 51.5 in December.

By late Friday on the London Metal Exchange, copper for delivery in three months rose to $8,304 a tonne from $8,028 a week earlier.

Three-month aluminium climbed to $2,122 a tonne from $2,066.

Three-month lead advanced to $2,460 a tonne from $2,364.

Three-month tin gained to $24,937 a tonne from $24,760.

Three-month nickel soared to $18,615 a tonne from $17,365.

Three-month zinc rallied to $2,173 a tonne from $2,081.

COCOA: Cocoa futures hit multi-month lows as rainy weather in key producer Ivory Coast stoked hopes of a better-than-expected harvest.

By Friday on LIFFE, London's futures exchange, cocoa for delivery in March dipped to £1,428 a tonne from £1,440 a week earlier.

On New York's NYBOT-ICE exchange, cocoa for March eased to $2,200 a tonne from $2,205 a week earlier.

COFFEE: Coffee futures enjoyed mixed fortunes in subdued deals.

By Friday on NYBOT-ICE, Arabica for delivery in March declined to 147.85 US cents a pound from 148.10 US cents a week earlier.

On LIFFE, Robusta for March delivery rose to $2,023 a tonne from $1,945 a week earlier.

SUGAR: Prices rebounded after striking their lowest points since summer 2010 last week, boosted by technical buying.

By Friday on LIFFE, the price of a tonne of white sugar for delivery in March increased to $501.20 from $486.70 a week earlier.

On NYBOT-ICE, the price of unrefined sugar for March rose to 18.80 US cents a pound from 18.39 cents the previous week.

RUBBER: The market gained ground on concerns over tight supplies in major producing countries.

The Malaysian Rubber Board's benchmark SMR20 ended the week at 305.85 US cents a kilo, up from 303.25 cents the previous week.

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