LONDON, Sept 17 (AFP): Oil prices fell this week amid forecasts of slowing demand that were offset slightly by further drops of the United States (US) stockpiles triggered by Hurricane Katrina.
Gold prices hit their highest levels in 17 years in London and New York, owing to forecasts of higher inflation. Other precious metals like platinum and silver followed in its wake. However, base metals mostly weakened.
Coffee and cocoa lost ground but sugar enjoyed a surge.
The Commodities Research Bureau's index of 17 commodities fell to 317.93 points on Friday from 324.77 points the previous week. It had hit 337.18 points on September 2, its highest level since November 1980.
GOLD: Gold prices hit their highest levels in 17 years in London and New York, as high oil prices stoked inflation fears.
On the London Bullion Market, the price of gold rose to 459 dollars an ounce, its highest since June 1988 and beating its previous peak in early December, which was 456.75 dollars.
On the Comex, a division of the New York Mercantile Exchange, gold for December delivery rose Friday morning to 462.70 dollars per ounce, also its highest level since June 1988.
The metals consultancy GFMS predicted Wednesday that the price of gold would hit 480 dollars an ounce by the end of the year as demand reached a four-year high, particularly in India and the jewellery sector.
SILVER: Silver prices edged up this week on the coattails of gold prices, but hit a ceiling of 7.10 dollars per ounce.
On the London Bullion Market, silver prices rose to 7.08 dollars per ounce at the late fixing Friday from 6.985 dollars the previous week.
BASE METALS: Base metals prices dropped further this week, though copper and zinc held their ground.
OIL: Oil prices continued their retreat this week amid signs of easing world demand which was offset slightly by a new drop in US crude stockpiles.
The 11-member Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) said Thursday in its monthly report that oil demand in 2005 would likely rise by an annual 1.7 per cent to 83.5 million barrels per day.
This was down from the oil cartel's previous prediction in August of a 1.9 per cent gain.
The oil cartel also cut its forecast for 2006, saying it now expected demand to increase by 1.8 per cent.
Despite signs that high prices have dampened demand, the market remained anxious about supplies, particularly since refineries were struggling to turn crude into heating fuel in time for the northern hemisphere winter.
RUBBER: Rubber prices weakened slightly this week, but a rebound is expected in the coming weeks amid weather-induced curbs on production.
COCOA: Cocoa prices plummeted this week, losing 11 per cent of their value.
On the LIFFE, London's futures exchange, the price of cocoa for December delivery stood at 817 pounds sterling, down from 880 pounds a week earlier.
COFFEE: The price of coffee plunged this week to its lowest level in nearly a year in New York as output looked better in the main producing countries Brazil and Vietnam.
Coffee prices sank to 91.40 cents a pound on Thursday in New York, its lowest level since November last year. On Tuesday it fell to 903 dollars per tonne in London, its lowest point since March.
SUGAR: Sugar prices rallied in New York to their highest level in four and a half years, as Brazilian ethanol looked attractive in the face of high gasoline prices.
GRAINS AND SOYA: Maize and soya prices weekend this weak on forecasts of good harvests, but wheat prices strengthened after US wheat stockpiles for 2005-2006 were revised downward.
Maize for December delivery (new contract) fell to 206 cents per bushel Friday from 216 cents.
COTTON: Cotton prices fell this week following disappointing US export figures and forecasts of overproduction.
On the New York Cotton Exchange (NYCE), the December contract stood at 50 US cents per pound on Thursday, down from 52.01 cents a week earlier.
The Cotton Outlook Index of physical cotton fell to 53.95 cents on Thursday from 55.8 cents last week.
WOOL: Wool prices firmed in Australia this week but stayed near their lowest levels in nearly four years.