Non-energy commodity prices rose for a sixth straight month in December, up 4.8 percent, despite a 3 percent gain in the value of the dollar versus the euro. For the year 2010, non-energy commodity prices were up 32 percent (compared to December 2009), with strong gains in most main indices.
Crude oil prices increased 6.5 percent in December, up for a fifth month, averaging $90.0/bbl. For much of 2010, oil prices were quite stable, but a rise in the fourth quarter helped generate a 20 percent gain for the year. In early January crude prices rose above $94/bbl, with Brent topping $98/bbl. Strong global distillate demand continued to pull crude prices higher, partly due to cold weather. The price of WTI in the U.S., however, has been atypically lagging Brent by some $6/bbl recently due to high stocks in Cushing OK, the delivery point for the WTI futures contracts on the NYMEX.
Agriculture prices rose 5.4 percent in December, up for a seventh straight month, and 28 percent for the year. The largest annual gains were for raw materials (cotton and rubber) and fats & oils. The latter also led the way in December, with coconut and palmkernel oil prices up 12-13 percent on lower palmkernel output in Asia. Palm oil and soybean oil prices were higher on weather-related supply problems for palm oil in Indonesia, and deteriorating soybean crops in Argentina. Wheat prices rose 12 percent on lower exports by key producers. Rubber prices rose 10 percent on supply shortfalls in Asia, while cotton prices rose 9 percent on low stocks and supply constraints.
Base metal prices rose 6.0 percent in December, up for a sixth straight month, and 26 percent for the year. The largest annual increase was for tin, up 68 percent, due to strong demand in China and lower output in Indonesia and China. Among precious metals, silver prices surged 66 percent in 2010 on strong investment demand, while gold prices were up 23 percent to a record nominal high. In December, silver prices recorded the strongest gain of all metals, up 11 percent, on continued strong investor interest as a hedge against various financial and political concerns. Copper prices rose 8 percent to a record nominal high, as supplies continue to be constrained, the latest incident being closure of a main port in Chile due to an accident.
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