COMMODITIES-Markets deepen losses as Cyprus bailout festers
* Cyprus parliament rejects EU-proposed conditional bailout * Oil, copper hit multi-month low on broad selloff * Gold rises to 3-week high as investors seek safe-havens * Natgas, wheat and corn among other gainers By Barani Krishnan NEW YORK, March 19 (Reuters) - Oil and copper prices hit multi-month lows on Tuesday and a number of commodities from gasoline to coffee closed down too as uncertainty over a bailout for Cyprus heightened concerns about the euro zone debt crisis. The dollar rallied against the euro for a second straight session, reaching a four-month high and making commodities denominated in the greenback costlier for holders of the single European currency. Oil prices sunk to three-month lows, while copper hit a seven-month trough. Arabica coffee fell for a seventh straight session. "The situation in Cyprus, although small, goes to show that the problems in the EU are far from over and it will exacerbate declining demand," said Abhishek Deshpande, a commodities analyst for Natixis in London. Cyprus's parliament overwhelmingly rejected a proposed levy on bank deposits as a condition for a European bailout, throwing efforts to rescue the latest casualty of the currency area's debt crisis into disarray. Not all commodities ended down, though. Gold hit a three-week high above $1,615 an ounce on safe-haven demand related to the Cyprus bailout. Natural gas hit a 17-month high, rallying for a fifth straight day, as U.S. temperatures remained unusually cold for the spring season. Wheat and corn also rallied, partly due to favorable supply situations. The Thomson Reuters-Jefferies CRB index, a bellwether for commodities, settled down almost half a percent, extending Monday's slide of 0.7 percent. Ten of the 19 markets tracked by the CRB ended in negative territory, with crude oil, gasoline and heating all losing about 2 percent or more. OIL AT 3-MONTH BOTTOM In crude oil, the benchmark Brent grade traded in London touched a three-month low of $107.25 and settled down $2.06, or 1.88 percent, at $107.45 a barrel. U.S. crude's front-month contract settled down $1.58 at $92.16 a barrel. While events in Cyprus dominated Tuesday's session in oil, traders were also watching Syria, where the government and rebels accused each other of launching a deadly chemical attack in what would, if confirmed, be the first use of such weapons in the two-year conflict. Iran also presents an element of risk that could limit losses in oil markets regardless of the outcome of the vote in Cyprus, said Thorbjoern Bak Jensen of Global Risk Management. Europe and the United States imposed tough new sanctions last year aimed at Iran's oil trade to force Tehran to the negotiating table over its nuclear program. Insurers have refused to cover Indian refineries that process Iranian crude imports, which might halt deliveries. China's biggest refiner has, meanwhile, said it did not expect to have any insurance problems and planned to use more Iranian oil in 2013. COPPER AT 7-MONTH LOW Three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange fell 1.2 percent to $7,486.25 a tonne in electronic trading, the weakest since Aug. 21 and breaking below a November low of $7,506. Copper had ended at $7,530 a tonne in the last session of open outcry trading. Copper and aluminum, another key base metal, have shed between 10 and 11 percent since touching highs in February, as worries grew about tepid demand and rising inventories. In LME-registered warehouses, copper inventories were close to 9-1/2 year highs. Nickel stocks neared their highest since February 2010. Metals markets have waited in vain for China to resume buying after its Lunar New Year holiday and as the country's leadership transition winds up and the seasonally strong second quarter for metals demand gets underway. Despite the fundamentals behind this year's selling in metals, some view the price drops as overdone. Market bulls refer to Tuesday's data showing U.S. home starts up in February and new permits for construction rising to the highest level since 2008. "We have just sent an alert to our clients advising them to buy" copper, said Gianclaudio Torlizzi, a partner at metals consultancy T-Commodity. Prices at 5:57 p.m. EDT (2056 GMT) LAST/ NET PCT YTD CLOSE CHG CHG CHG US crude 0.00 0.00 0.0% -100.0% Brent crude 107.46 -2.05 -1.9% -3.3% Natural gas 3.969 0.000 0.0% 18.4% US gold 1611.30 6.70 0.4% -3.8% Gold 1611.80 -0.99 -0.1% -3.7% US Copper 339.55 -2.15 -0.6% -7.0% LME Copper 7530.00 -45.00 -0.6% -5.1% Dollar 83.038 0.338 0.4% 8.2% US corn 728.50 8.50 1.2% 4.3% US soybeans 1406.75 -2.75 -0.2% -0.8% US wheat 722.00 9.25 1.3% -7.2% US Coffee 133.10 -1.25 -0.9% -7.4% US Cocoa 2099.00 11.00 0.5% -6.1% US Sugar 18.31 0.02 0.1% -6.2% US silver 28.843 -0.031 -0.1% -4.6% US platinum 1555.40 -23.80 -1.5% 1.1% US palladium 735.20 -29.65 -3.9% 4.5%
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