March 3, 2014 / 4:07 PM / 4 years ago

COMMODITIES-Ukraine crisis fuels gains in gold, oil, grains; copper down

* Oil climbs more than $2/barrel; wheat gains nearly 5 pct

* Investors flock to gold, oil as they exit riskier assets

* Gold hits 4-month highs (New throughout, updates prices and market activity, adds comments from analysts; adds new byline and dateline, previously LONDON/SINGAPORE)

By Josephine Mason and Eric Onstad

NEW YORK/LONDON, March 3 (Reuters) - Gold and crude oil surged on Monday as escalating tensions between Moscow and Kiev prompted investors to flock to assets seen as safer while grains soared as the mounting conflict fueled concerns about supplies from a key exporting region.

The aversion to higher-risk assets like stocks also hurt base metals, as investors worried that a conflict could derail the world economy’s shaky recovery.

Crude rose more than $2 a barrel to a 5-1/2 month high and gold jumped over 2 percent to four-month highs, with those markets gaining in appeal as the Russian military tightened its grip on Ukraine’s Crimea region.

Wheat futures rose nearly 5 percent, their most in 1-1/2 years, as tensions stoked fears of disruption to shipments from the Black Sea, one of the world’s key grain-exporting zones.

“As a result of the escalation of this conflict and the damages it’s going to do to the European economy, people are going to continue to rotate out of the stock market into the gold market,” said Jeffrey Sica, chief investment officer of New Jersey-based Sica Wealth Management, which has more than $1 billion in client assets.

Ukraine said Russia was building up armored vehicles on its side of a narrow stretch of water closest to Crimea. President Vladimir Putin declared at the weekend that Russia had the right to invade its neighbor to protect Russian interests.

The U.S. State Department threatened to impose economic sanctions on Russia for its military intervention.

The Thomson Reuters/CoreCommodity CRB Index rose 1.1 percent to its highest since October 2012, with 12 out of 19 assets rising on the day.

Arabica coffee was the strongest performer, surging to two-year highs as Brazilian crops continued to be scorched by the top grower’s worst drought in decades.

Safe haven buying also boosted U.S. Treasury debt prices, the dollar and the yen.

Spot gold rose as high as $1,354.80 an ounce, its loftiest since Oct. 30 and its biggest daily gain since Jan. 23.

U.S. COMEX gold futures for April delivery settled up $28.70 at $1,350.30 an ounce, with trading volume about 10 percent above its 30-day average, preliminary Reuters data showed.

Global oil prices rose even though analysts said it was unlikely the crisis would disrupt oil supplies from Russia, one of the world’s top producers.

Brent crude settled $2.13 higher at $111.20 per barrel. At its session high, it was up $3.32 to $112.39 per barrel, its highest intra-session peak since Dec. 30.

U.S. crude settled $2.33 higher at $104.92 a barrel, its highest settlement price in 5-1/2 months. Earlier in the session, U.S. oil climbed as high as $105.22 a barrel.


Wheat futures surged nearly 5 percent and corn jumped 1.5 percent in Chicago amid concerns about global supplies. Tensions in Ukraine stoked fears of disruption to shipments from the Black Sea, one of the world’s key grain-exporting zones.

Most-active CBOT May wheat finished 29-1/4 cents up at $6.31-1/2 per bushel, the largest daily gain since July 2012. The session high was the highest since Dec. 19.

CBOT May corn jumped 7 cents to $4.70-1/2, the highest since Sept. 30.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has forecast that Russia and Ukraine will export a total 26.5 million tonnes of wheat in the 2013/14 marketing season, or 17 percent of global shipments. In corn, Ukraine alone is forecast to export 18.5 million tonnes, or 16 percent of total exports.

“The market is concerned that the tensions in that part of the world could curb export activity,” said Luke Mathews, commodities strategist at Commonwealth Bank of Australia.

“The importance of the Black Sea region to global grain markets should not be understated.”


Industrial metals went the opposite direction to precious metals.

“Trade sanctions and a general ratcheting up of global tensions could also endanger the fragile global economic recovery now under way, hurting commodity prices in the process,” analyst Edward Meir at broker INTL FCStone said.

Three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange fell 0.53 percent to $6,968 a tonne at the close, having earlier reached as low as $6,944 a tonne, the weakest since Dec. 3. Copper is down more than 5 percent this year.

Aluminum ended down 1.88 percent at $1,721 a tonne.

Tensions in Ukraine weighed on the euro, making dollar-priced metals costlier for non-U.S. investors.

Also hitting metals was data that showed activity in China’s factory sector slowed to an eight-month low in February, reinforcing signs of a modest slowdown in the world’s No. 2 economy as demand weakens.

China is the world’s top user of the base metal, accounting for about 40 percent of global demand. (Additional reporting by Manolo Serapio Jr. in Singapore; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman, Dale Hudson and David Gregorio)

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