COMMODITIES-Mostly down for April after brutal mid-month selloff
* Copper down 7 pct for April, sharpest drop since May 2012 * Brent oil also off 7 pct on month, biggest drop since June * Gold loses 8 pct for April, sharpest slide since December (Adds monthly gains in wheat and cocoa that buck April trend, para 2; updates price table at bottom) By Barani Krishnan NEW YORK, April 30 (Reuters) - Oil and copper fell on Tuesday, finishing April with the largest monthly declines in nearly a year, and gold slipped as well on uncertainty whether U.S. and European central banks will favor more monetary easing when they meet later in the week. Wheat and cocoa were among the few markets that bucked April's broadly weaker trend in commodities. Wheat rallied 5 percent for the largest monthly gain since July, while cocoa jumped 8 percent for the biggest monthy rise since August. The Thomson Reuters-Jefferies CRB index, a closely-watched indicator for commodity prices, finished nearly 3 percent down for April and almost half a percentage point lower for the session. The slump came despite the dollar's drop to a 2-month low against a basket of currencies on Tuesday, after an April reading for business activity in the U.S. Midwest unexpectedly softened. While a weak dollar should logically stir inflation concerns that boost commodities, analysts said investors were taking their cue more from global economic data that had lately been worrying. Signs of stagnating growth in China, euro zone debt trouble and uncertainty about further U.S. economic stimulus led in mid-April to one of the most brutal commodity sell-offs. Oil's benchmark Brent crude fell below $100 a barrel for the first time in nine months, gold had its biggest loss in dollar terms and copper sank to an 18-month low at the height of the tumble. Prices have since recovered but were in a range as investors tried to figure out if policy makers at the U.S. Federal Reserve would affirm the central bank's economic stimulus plans in meetings scheduled this week. Bond-buying by the Fed had fueled investment activity in commodities for more than two years now. Investors were also looking out for a possible rate cut by the European Central Bank later this week as the ECB tries to shore up flagging growth in the euro zone. "In the last couple of weeks, economic data all over the world has capped the upside, and until data shows a strong rebound, there's little chance for a bounce back," said Andy Sommer, analyst at EGL in Dietikon, Switzerland. While the mid-April market tumble may be overdone, "any price recovery from here is likely to be mild, divergent and difficult to sustain without an improvement in growth," Barclays Capital added in a second quarter outlook on commodities. On Tuesday, London's Brent crude closed at $102.37 a barrel, down 1.4 percent on the day. For the month, the market was down more than 7 percent, its sharpest loss since May. Benchmark three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange closed at $7,055 a tonne, down 1.4 percent for the session. For April, LME copper was off nearly 7 percent, its biggest drop since May. The spot price of gold was at around $1,473 an ounce, about 0.2 percent cheaper on the day and nearly 8 percent lower for April -- its sharpest monthly drop since December. Prices at 4:04 p.m. EDT (2004 GMT) LAST/ NET PCT YTD CLOSE CHG CHG CHG US crude 93.06 -1.44 -1.5% 1.4% Brent crude 101.71 -2.10 -2.0% -8.5% Natural gas 4.343 -0.049 -1.1% 29.6% US gold 1472.10 4.70 0.3% -12.2% Gold 1475.39 -0.40 0.0% -11.9% US Copper 318.75 -3.90 -1.2% -12.7% LME Copper 7055.00 -98.50 -1.4% -11.0% Dollar 81.726 -0.421 -0.5% 6.5% US corn 683.25 -0.75 -0.1% -2.1% US soybeans 1467.75 -4.00 -0.3% 3.5% US wheat 721.75 12.00 1.7% -7.2% US Coffee 135.10 1.35 1.0% -6.1% US Cocoa 2368.00 33.00 1.4% 5.9% US Sugar 17.60 0.15 0.9% -9.8% US silver 24.185 0.019 0.1% -20.0% US platinum 1507.20 -0.20 0.0% -2.0% US palladium 697.80 -1.40 -0.2% -0.8% (Editing by Andrew Hay and Alden Bentley)
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