* Natgas hits highest since Feb 2010 on U.S. cold snap
* Gold up, posts five-week winning streak as S&P tumbles
* U.S. crude futures ease
* Coming up: U.S. new home sales Monday
By Frank Tang
NEW YORK, Jan 24 Natural gas prices surged 10
percent on Friday, hitting their highest level in nearly four
years as cold temperatures in the United States continued to
boost demand, while U.S. crude futures fell on weak Chinese
economic data and Wall Street's decline.
The rally in natural gas and a small gain in gold - which
posted a fifth consecutive weekly gain - lifted commodities as a
whole. The Thomson Reuters/Core Commodity Index, a
benchmark for global commodities made up of 19 components, rose
about 0.5 percent.
Brutally cold weather hovering over the eastern United
States pushed front-month natural gas futures prices to their
highest point since February 2010.
That cold has increased the demand for natural gas to heat
homes and businesses, surprising the market despite expectations
early in the season for some below-normal cold.
"This winter looked to be slightly colder than normal, but
no one was really screaming for this kind of cold weather," said
Aaron Calder, a market analyst at Gelber & Associates.
February natural gas futures on the New York Mercantile
Exchange settled up 45.2 cents, or 9.6 percent, at
U.S. equities dropped on Friday following a selloff in
emerging market assets and on growth concerns in China and
expectations that the Federal Reserve will further cut stimulus,
with the S&P 500 index down almost 2 percent for its worst
one-day drop since November 2012.
European Brent crude climbed, while U.S. crude oil futures
settled down 68 cents at $96.64 per barrel.
GOLD POSTS FIVE-WEEK RISE
Spot gold rose to a two-month high on Friday, notching its
fifth consecutive weekly gain as a global flight from
emerging-market assets and declines in equities increased
bullion's safe-haven appeal.
Among industrial metals, copper fell to its lowest in a
month and struck its biggest weekly fall since mid-November as
slowing growth in China's factories fueled worries about demand
in the world's top metals consumer.
In agricultural commodities, wheat futures slid more than 1
percent in a profit-taking setback following the steepest rally
in three months the previous session on worries that a cold snap
in the Midwest and Plains could damage the dormant winter crop.
Raw and white sugar futures firmed after nearing multiyear
lows, while cocoa pared gains after tapping one-month highs
following Thursday's rally.
(Editing by Meredith Mazzilli)