Wednesday, January 5, 2011

GLOBAL MARKETS-Commodities sink on profit-taking, US stocks slip

NEW YORK: Commodity prices fell sharply on Tuesday, Jan 4 as investors took advantage of record high prices to take profits, a move accelerated by a rally in the U.S. dollar.

Wall Street also pulled back after a strong December boosted equities to two-year highs, with consumer and energy stocks weaker. Stocks in Tokyo appear poised to gain ground when trading resumes on Wednesday. Nikkei futures for March traded in Chicago show a rise of 65 points to 10,430.

The Reuters-Jefferies CRB index of commodity prices dropped 1.59 percent in its sharpest one-day fall since mid-November.

European shares closed at a one-week high, boosted by gains in shares of oil companies before the price of crude oil began to slide. Strong manufacturing data from around the world boosted commodity prices earlier in the day.

U.S. crude for February delivery settled down $2.17, or 2.37 percent, at $89.38 per barrel, a day after hitting a 27-month high.

U.S. gold futures for February delivery settled down $44.1 an ounce at $1,378.80.

"I think this is more of a healthy correction. The fear trade is backing off somewhat after gold has recently rallied on global economic anxiety," said Mark Luschini, chief investment strategist of Janney Montgomery Scott, a financial services firm managing $50 billion in client assets.

"Data in the last couple of days only continues to affirm the organic strengthening in the economy, and that's not just only in the U.S., but in the euro zone as well," he said.

The profit-taking in commodities overwhelmed upbeat economic data. An unexpected increase in U.S. factory orders in November reported on Tuesday underpinned recent evidence that the economic recovery was on a sustainable path. Orders, excluding transportation, recorded their largest gain in eight months.

In minutes from the Federal Reserve's December meeting released on Tuesday, officials said the U.S. economic recovery was still weak enough to warrant monetary support despite growing signs of strength.

Strength in the U.S. dollar added to the commodity sell-off since a stronger dollar makes purchasing many raw materials more expensive. Commodity-related currencies like the Canadian and Australian dollars fell with the decline in the price of oil.

On Wall Street, weak consumer stocks and a prediction by Morgan Stanley that the benchmark S&P 500 will lose ground in 2011 weighed on sentiment a day after that index, as well as the Dow Jones industrial average both hit two-year highs.

Worries that rising costs of commodities such as soybeans and corn will sap supermarket profits hurt consumer stocks and dented growing optimism about the economic outlook.


Major U.S. market indexes closed mixed. The Dow industrials gained 20.43 points, or 0.18 percent, to 11,691.18. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index, however, lost 1.67 points, or 0.13 percent, to 1,270.20. The Nasdaq Composite Index fell 10.27 points, or 0.38 percent, to 2,681.25.

Morgan Stanley forecast a base case year-end target for the S&P 500 at 1,238, below the 2010 close. The firm's risk-reward scenario for 2011 was "skewed to the negative."

Shares of Supervalu Inc fell more than 6 percent after Morgan Stanley told investors to cut holdings in the stock, saying rising food costs will crimp margins.

"We're light on consumer staples," said Thomas Villalta, portfolio manager for Jones Villalta Asset Management in Austin, Texas. "One of our concerns is commodity prices are going to bite into profits."

S&P's energy share index fell 0.61 percent.

Activity across all commodity markets picked up dramatically as traders returned from holiday, with volume at mid-session already in excess of any day over the past two weeks.

Copper for March delivery shed 8.85 cents, or 2 percent, to settle at $4.3690 per lb in New York trade, pulling further away from Monday's record peak of $4.4980.

"It's a healthy correction in copper," said Sean McGillivray, vice president at Oregon-based Great Pacific Wealth Management.

Chicago corn for March delivery fell 12 cents, or 1.9 percent, to settle at $6.08-1/2 a bushel.

While commodity prices were lower on the day, they remain near multiyear or record highs.

In currency markets, the euro was down 0.41 percent from late on Monday at $1.3307 after hitting three-week peaks at $1.3435.

The dollar gained 0.43 percent to 82.06 yen. Against a basket of major trading partner currencies, the greenback rose 0.39 percent.

The MSCI All-Country World index rose 0.11 percent. Earlier, Japan's Nikkei began the year with a 1.7 percent climb to a 7-1/2 month closing high.

U.S. benchmark 10-year Treasuries were unchanged in price to yield 3.34 percent. - Reuters

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