A barrel of crude oil briefly reached an 11-month high on Tuesday, then retreated as some traders collected profits and gasoline futures fell back. Oil prices -- already inflated by world political concerns and U.S. supply questions -- rose further, hitting $75.35 amid speculative buying, analysts said. Crude reached its highest levels since August 2006.
"I think it was too much too soon," said Phil Flynn of Chicago's Alaron Trading Corp. He said some traders may have pocketed profits ahead of the closely watched weekly petroleum inventories report, due out Wednesday from the Energy Information Administration.
Analysts expect to see an increase in refinery usage in this week's inventory report, according to a poll by Dow Jones Newswires. That would lead to a draw on crude stocks and a rise in gasoline output. On average, analysts foresee a draw of 760,000 barrels of crude and a build of 560,000 barrels of gasoline.
Light, sweet crude for August delivery ended the session down 13 cents to $74.02 on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Gasoline futures edged down 2.55 cents to close at $2.1007 a gallon. August heating oil fell a 2.24 cents to settle at $2.0332 a gallon.
Elsewhere on the Nymex, gold settled slightly lower after taking its cues initially from the U.S. dollar and later from oil prices.
In early trading, gold prices climbed as high as $668 an ounce as the dollar declined against the euro and other world currencies. Gold often moves opposite the dollar, as investors seek safer havens in which to invest their money. At one point, the euro fetched $1.3798.
But an about-face in the oil market led gold lower before the close, according to a report by bullion trading house MKS Finance SA.
August gold slipped 40 cents to close at $665.90 on the Nymex. Silver for September delivery fell 4.7 cents to close at $13.018 an ounce on Nymex.
Copper prices lost ground as some strike action seemed to dissipate, and the London Metal Exchange posted a second day of inventory injections. Nymex copper for September delivery fell 9.5 cents to $3.5525 a pound.
Lead surged nearly 4 percent on the LME to another record high after the world's second-largest lead refiner, Doe Run Co., announced sharp production cutbacks at a Missouri refinery that suffered an explosion on Friday, according to a Dow Jones Newswires report. The news hit a market that has recently been pained by supply constraints.
The Federal Reserve reported Tuesday that U.S. factories, mines and utilities increased output by the largest margin since February -- a potentially positive sign of demand for industrial metals. The 0.5 percent rise met expectations and was evidence that the nation's manufacturing industry is ramping up production after sharp cutbacks last winter.
In Chicago, corn and soybeans retreated further after a Monday that saw futures for both slide to the daily limit of 20 cents and 50 cents, respectively. Rains crossed the Midwest and were expected to shower the corn crop with the moisture needed during its crucial pollination period.
December corn shed 11.75 cents to close at $3.3675 a bushel, while November soybeans dropped 38.25 cents to $8.605 a bushel.
Wheat prices made an initial move higher, then weakened along with the complex to fall 0.5 cent to $6.0125 a bushel.