CHICAGO Oil markets rebounded from two days of losses on Wednesday as U.S. government data showed a steeper-than-expected drop in domestic fuel stocks, while gold dipped after a four-session rally and copper steadied near a three-month low.
Cotton climbed nearly 2 percent in a short-covering rally a day after the U.S. government forecast record-high global cotton stocks, and cocoa and coffee rose in reaction to a strong earthquake off Indonesia that triggered tsunami warnings in the world's No. 3 coffee producer.
Grains were modestly higher, helped by a weaker dollar and worries about cold weather in the U.S. wheat belt, and soybeans eased for a third straight day as investors cashed in long positions after prices hit a seven-month peak a day earlier.
The 19-commodity Thomson Reuters-Jefferies CRB index .CRB rose 0.55 percent to 302.10 points after settling a day earlier at 300.45, the lowest since December 20.
Oil markets firmed, despite a 2.8-million-barrel increase in U.S. crude oils stocks last week that topped trade expectations, as the Energy Information Administration reported a sharp drop in U.S. gasoline and distillate stocks in a weekly report. EIA also reported a drop in crude imports. <EIA/S>
"The large refined product drawdowns and decline in crude oil imports combined to produce a bullish report," said John Kilduff, partner at Again Capital LLC in New York.
Benchmark ICE Brent crude in London settled 30 cents higher at $120.18 a barrel, rebounding from a Tuesday's steep drop that was the biggest one-day percentage loss since December 14.
U.S. crude, which dominates the CRB Index, closed at $102.70 a barrel, gaining $1.68 from Tuesday's eight-week low and narrowing Brent's premium to U.S. crude to $17.48, from $18.86 on Tuesday.
GOLD SLIPS, COPPER HOLDS
Gold eased after a four-session rally, although losses were tempered by a stronger euro and a bullish price outlook from metals consultancy GFMS.
"The market tone is a bit better, but we have had a bit of risk-back-on in the last day or two. So, I think that is hurting gold somewhat," said Peter Buchanan, senior economist at CIBC World Markets in Toronto.
Spot gold was off 0.2 percent at $1,657.16 an ounce by 3:09 EDT (1909 GMT). U.S. June gold futures finished 40 cents lower at $1,660.30 per ounce.
Copper steadied near a three-month low around $8,000 a metric ton (1.1023 tons) after tumbling 4 percent the previous day and traders warned that worries of slowing U.S. and Chinese growth could continue to weigh on the base metal.
London Metal Exchange (LME) three-month copper fell as low as $8,018.00 a metric ton, its cheapest since January 16, before recovering to end the day up $4 at $8,040. In New York, the May COMEX contract shed 1.05 cents to settle at $3.6395 per lb after dealing from a 3-month trough at $3.6305 to $3.6730.
Cotton spiked as much as 3.2 percent and breached its 100-day moving average as investors covered short positions. The benchmark ICE May contract settled 1.8 percent higher at 91.38 cents per lb after peaking at 92.62 in the biggest daily rise since March 5.
Cocoa futures bounced from a three-month low and coffee rallied in what some called a knee-jerk reaction to news of a strong earthquake and tsunami warnings off Indonesia, the world's No. 3 producer and a key arabica and robusta grower. <SOF/L>
U.S. soybeans slipped a half percent on profit-taking a day after prices hit seven-month highs, while corn posted tepid gains. Wheat firmed on worries of a cold snap in the U.S. Plains that threatened to damage newly sown spring wheat and maturing winter wheat. <GRA/>
(Editing by David Gregorio)