COMMODITIES-US soybeans drop to five-month low, oil climbs

Fri Nov 16, 2012 5:07pm EST

* CBOT wheat futures pare losses after hitting 4-month low

* U.S. December crude futures go off the board

* Bullion ends week down 1 pct, falling 5 out of past 6 weeks

* Cocoa futures tumble on London and New York markets

By Marcy Nicholson

NEW YORK, Nov 16 (Reuters) - U.S. soybean prices sank to a five-month low on Friday after word spread that China, the world's biggest oilseed importer, canceled orders, and oil futures moved higher on concern about supplies in the Middle East.

Gold erased earlier losses to steady at around $1,715 an ounce, copper dropped on the firm U.S. dollar and cocoa futures tumbled as concerns waned about the dissolution of top grower Ivory Coast's government.

Soybean futures trading on the Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT) dropped on the cancellation of about 600,000 tonnes of U.S. soybeans by China. The deals were scrapped, the China National Grain and Oils Information Center said, because weak domestic demand and a recent drop in prices made them unprofitable.

"The Chinese news about cancellations puts beans in the driver's seat again to the downside," said Mike Zuzolo, president of Global Commodity Analytics & Consulting.

January soybeans settled at down 1.3 percent at $13.83-1/4 a bushel at the CBOT.

Also at the CBOT, wheat prices sank to a four-month low, falling for the sixth straight session on chart-based selling and lackluster demand. The market pared losses as equities climbed after congressional leaders said their "fiscal cliff" meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama was constructive.

December wheat fell 0.9 percent to settle at $8.38 a bushel.

Oil climbed as turmoil in the Middle East escalated, reinforcing worries about supply while the U.S. crude market got an additional lift from a fire on a Gulf of Mexico energy platform.

Front-month Brent crude for January delivery rose 94 cents, or 0.87 percent, to settle at $108.95 a barrel. U.S. December crude rose $1.22, or 1.43 percent, to settle and go off the board at $86.67 a barrel, having traded from $85.02 to $87.01.

Gold erased losses and steadied around $1,715 an ounce, but posted a weekly loss as investors focused on uncertainty over global growth and worries over the U.S. "fiscal cliff" when $600 billion worth of tax increases and deep spending cuts would take effect early next year.

Spot gold edged down 0.1 percent at $1,712.85 an ounce by 4:29 p.m. EDT (2129 GMT), and posted a weekly loss after prices climbed more than 3 percent last week.

Bullion posted a 1 percent weekly drop and has now fallen in five out of the past six weeks. The market felt pressure from news on Thursday that the euro zone swung into a recession as well as disappointing U.S. jobless claims data and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's negative outlook on housing recovery.

"The severity of the recent equities decline has cast a shadow of fear over gold investors that continued capitulation in the stock market will force leveraged accounts to sell gold," said Jeffrey Sica, chief investment officer of Sica Wealth, which manages over $1 billion in assets.

The metal was pressured as the S&P 500 equities index dropped roughly 4 percent in the past two weeks, its steepest two-week drop in about six months, on fears that the United States could lapse into recession if a combination of scheduled tax hikes and spending cuts is allowed to go forward.

U.S. gold was down a slight 0.05 percent at $1,713.00.

Platinum group metals also fell after the end of strikes that had swept South Africa's mining sector.

Platinum was down 0.9 percent at $1,554.99, while palladium dropped 0.7 percent to $624.54.

The U.S. budget problems combined with the euro zone debt crisis weighed on copper futures as investors crew increasingly cautious. Deeper losses were prevented, however, on signs that the slowdown in China, the world's biggest consumer of metals, might have bottomed out.

Three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange closed at $7,605 a tonne, down from $7,639.50 at Thursday's close.

"Equities markets are weak in China, Europe and U.S. and the euro is also under pressure, and those exogenous factors are really weighing on the base metals," Standard Bank analyst Leon Westgate said.

In other metals, three-month aluminum closed at $1,951 per tonne from $1,964 at the close on Thursday, zinc finished at $1,920 a tonne from $1,955 and lead at $2,150 from $2,199.

Tin closed at $20,400 from $20,475 and stainless steel material nickel at $15,955 from $15,910.

In soft commodities, cocoa futures trading on both ICE Futures U.S. and Liffe tumbled, falling for the first time in six consecutive sessions as concern waned about government turmoil in top grower Ivory Coast.

ICE March cocoa fell $85, or 3.4 percent, to finish at $2,398 per tonne, while benchmark Liffe March cocoa futures dropped 49 pounds, or 3.1 percent, to settle at 1,553 pounds per tonne.

The drop largely erased gains made earlier in the week after the unexpected dissolution of the Ivory Coast government.