* Robust growth in US home prices fuels US crude rally
* Brent crude gains comparatively less on Europe fears
* Copper lifted by China buying, Cyprus woes limit gain
* Gold down as safe-haven demand ebbs
* Soybeans rally, sugar bucks trend at near 2-1/2 yr low
By Barani Krishnan
NEW YORK, March 26 U.S. crude oil jumped on
Tuesday, after data showing robust growth in domestic home
prices, and other commodities from metals to agriculture also
rose although fears over Cyprus and the euro zone pared gains.
The dollar was flat against the euro, holding near
Monday's four-month high, on worries that Cyprus's banking
problems could make investors shun euro zone assets or withdraw
from other less financially-stable European nations such as
Spain and Italy.
A firm dollar typically softens demand for commodities from
holders of other currencies. Even so, U.S. crude settled
up 1.6 percent, or $1.53, at $96.34 per barrel, marking it third
strong gain in a row.
Benchmark copper edged higher in London trade after
buying by China, the metal's biggest consumer. Gains in copper
were, however, capped by lingering concerns about Cyprus, whose
banking system analysts said remained vulnerable after an euro
zone bailout secured on Monday.
The spot price of gold slipped as safe-haven demand
for the precious metal ebbed.
On the agricultural front, Chicago-traded soybeans
rallied for the first time in three sessions as port congestion
during the harvest of Brazil's bumper crop drove up cash prices.
Wheat also closed up in Chicago.
Among other crops, arabica coffee climbed for a fifth
straight day in New York and cocoa also rose. But raw
sugar slid to near the 2-1/2 year lows seen in February, bucking
the broadly positive trend in agricultural commodities.
Natural gas edged up in New York after four straight
losing sessions, underpinned by chilly weather forecasts next
week in the U.S. Northeast in spite of spring.
The Thomson Reuters-Jefferies CRB index, a global
indicator for commodities, rose 0.7 percent, after closing the
previous session unchanged.
US CRUDE BOOSTED BY STRONG HOME PRICES
The gain in U.S. crude came after a survey by Standard &
Poors/Case Shiller showed U.S. single-family home prices in
January posted the biggest annual increase in 6-1/2 years.
Benchmark NYMEX crude futures topped at $96.45 during the
session, tempered by reports showing a drop in actual home sales
in February and a slide in consumer confidence in March.
London's Brent crude finished up 1 percent at
$109.36 a barrel. Brent's premium to U.S. crude narrowed to just
around $10 a barrel -- the smallest in more than 8 months -- as
traders worried the euro zone debt crisis may flare anew after
the crisis in Cyprus.
"The economic position in the U.S. looks better than in
Europe," said Olivier Jakob, analyst at Petromatrix in Zug,
Prices at 3:19 p.m. EDT (1919 GMT)
LAST/ NET PCT YTD
CLOSE CHG CHG CHG
US crude 96.26 1.45 1.5% 4.8%
Brent crude 109.33 1.16 1.1% -1.6%
Natural gas 3.976 0.111 2.9% 18.7%
US gold 1595.70 -8.80 -0.5% -4.8%
Gold 1599.40 -5.50 -0.3% -4.5%
US Copper 343.25 -0.25 -0.1% -6.0%
LME Copper 7625.00 5.00 0.1% -3.9%
Dollar 82.870 0.045 0.1% 8.0%
US corn 730.25 -3.00 -0.4% 4.6%
US soybeans 1447.75 10.50 0.7% 2.0%
US wheat 731.50 4.25 0.6% -6.0%
US Coffee 137.60 2.00 1.5% -4.3%
US Cocoa 2146.00 16.00 0.8% -4.0%
US Sugar 17.78 -0.19 -1.1% -8.9%
US silver 28.679 -0.136 -0.5% -5.1%
US platinum 1566.00 -16.90 -1.1% 1.8%
US palladium 761.40 4.05 0.5% 8.3%