Commodities show mixed performance amid China's economic efforts

Company News

by Glenn Dyer

Oil had a better week, iron ore bounced, copper rose, and coal eased as commodities steadied on hopes that China’s attempts to stop the economic rot would work.

Oil's gains, however, came from the continuing tensions in the Middle East, especially the Red Sea.

Singapore iron ore futures saw a solid rise in the price of 62% Fe fines over the week. Friday's close of $US135.60 a tonne was $US5.70 a tonne above the previous Friday figure of $US129.90.

China's attempts to stabilize wobbling markets and promise troubled property companies bank loans and other help encouraged traders after the price had fallen from $US142.66 a tonne earlier in the month.

Copper prices jumped to $US3.85 a pound on Comex, up 1.7% for the week, but touched $US3.88 a pound earlier in the week due to China's property help and reserve ratio cut for banks.

Gold ended at $US2,018.20 an ounce on Comex in after-hours trading, up 0.7% for the week.

The front month settled at $US2,017.30, while the Aussie dollar price ended at $US3,070.25 an ounce, according to the World Gold Council.

US bond yields eased a touch as well; the 10-year T bond ended at 4.14%, down just over a point for the week, while the two-year bond yield ended at 4.33%, down 4 points.

Weaker bond yields and the US dollar tend to help commodity prices. The US dollar added 0.2% for the week against major currencies, while the Aussie ended at 65.75, down 0.3%.

US West Texas oil futures rose 6.5% over the week to $US78.01 a barrel as the continued escalation of tensions in the Middle East and production problems in the US (from winter storms and freezing weather) drove the price to its biggest gain for months.

Brent crude was up 5.6% over the week at $US83.02 a barrel.

Strong US growth and weak inflation reports also helped oil pick up some ground.

For the week, US natural gas futures rose 7.7%, thanks to another week of winter storms throughout much of the US, but in Europe, gas prices fell again.

The number of oil rigs operating in the US rose by two last week, according to data from energy services company Baker Hughes. The count for oil increased to 499 from 497, while the number for gas dipped by one to 119. Miscellaneous rigs remained unchanged at three.

A year earlier, the US had 609 oil rigs, 160 gas rigs, and two miscellaneous rigs in operation, as shown by the company's data. Overall, there were 621 rigs operating in the US this week, down from 771 a year earlier.

Meanwhile, the Biden administration revealed a pause on approving new LNG projects in the US, but any impact will be longer-term. This pause will have no immediate effect on US gas supplies to Europe or Asia, as America became the world’s biggest LNG shipper in 2023.

Currently, seven LNG terminals are operating in the US, mostly in Louisiana and Texas, with up to five more expected to come online in the next few years. Biden’s move will not affect those projects but could delay a dozen or more LNG projects that are pending or in various stages of planning. This could end up being a good thing, as there have been growing fears that too many plants will be chasing supplies from a domestic market that has cut back on exploration.

Glenn Dyer

Glenn Dyer has been a finance journalist and TV producer for more than 40 years. He has worked at Maxwell Newton Publications, Queensland Newspapers, AAP, The Australian Financial Review, The Nine Network and Crikey.

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