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NEW YORK, Dec 9 (Reuters) - U.S. natural gas futures surged to 6-month highs on Monday on cold weather forecasts, while nickel rallied on a planned ban on Indonesian exports of the metal, boosting commodities to a slightly higher close despite a drop in crude oil.
Gold prices also climbed, rallying late as the dollar dropped and technical support encouraged funds to establish new long positions in the precious metal.
U.S. soybeans rose after data showed a surge of sales to China. Robusta coffee prices firmed in London on concern about tighter immediate supplies from Vietnam, the top grower of the crop.
Oil prices fell, as well-supplied markets saw limited demand from European refiners.
Thomson Reuters/Core Commodity CRB index closed little changed at 278.8671 as the drop in oil prices offset broad gains. Prices rose for 11 of the 19 commodities tracked by the index.
Natural gas led the gainers, rising nearly 3 percent to $4.232 per million British thermal units, after cold weather forecasts for most of the United States this month.
"We're now looking at an additional arctic outbreak in the week leading up to Christmas," said Matt Rogers, a meteorologist at Commodity Weather Group.
Private forecaster MDA Weather Services called for cold to continue from the central United States to the East in its one- to five-day outlook, with colder weather trending in the East and northern-tier states in the six- to 10-day forecast.
Some moderating temperatures were on tap in the 11- to 15-day outlook for the South and West. But colder-than-normal weather was still expected across northern states, the forecaster said.
In nickel, three-month futures for the metal outperformed the London Metal Exchange (LME), closing up 1.4 percent higher at $13,955 a tonne after touching highs last seen on Nov. 8.
The rally came ahead of a nickel export ban by Indonesia, which comes into effect next month and is designed to increase the value of the country's mineral exports.
Indonesia, the world's top exporter of nickel ore, thermal coal and refined tin, has for decades and with limited success tried to create more value from its vast array of natural resources and hopes to develop processing industries to support its growing economy.
In oil, benchmark Brent crude settled down $2.22, or 2 percent, at $109.39 a barrel. U.S. crude finished down 31 cents, or 0.3 percent, at $97.34 a barrel.
Prices at 5:25 p.m. EDT (2225 GMT)
CLOSE CHG CHG CHG US crude 97.20 -0.31 -0.3% 5.9% Brent crude 109.10 -2.51 -2.3% -1.8% Natural gas 4.232 0.118 2.9% 26.3%
US gold 1234.20 5.20 0.4% -26.4% Gold 1239.86 -0.70 -0.1% -25.9% US Copper 3.26 0.01 0.3% -10.8% LME Copper 7135.00 13.00 0.2% -10.0% Dollar 80.148 -0.167 -0.2% 4.4% CRB 278.867 0.210 0.1% -5.5%
US corn 428.50 4.50 1.1% -38.6% US soybeans 1343.75 18.25 1.4% -5.3% US wheat 639.00 1.75 0.3% -17.9%
US Coffee 106.10 -0.30 -0.3% -26.2% US Cocoa 2751.00 -52.00 -1.9% 23.0% US Sugar 16.55 -0.04 -0.2% -15.2%
US silver 19.701 19.506 1.6% -34.8% US platinum 1368.50 12.20 0.0% -11.1% US palladium 735.00 -1.15 -0.2% 4.5% (Editing by David Gregorio)