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COMMODITIES : Platinum Futures Gain on Buying by Japan Jewelers

From Associated Press

Prices of platinum futures gained strongly Monday after a modest rally led by Japanese jewelry makers pushed prices through key resistance levels, triggering widespread buying.

On other markets, gold and silver futures also advanced, copper futures declined, energy futures gained, grains and soybeans were mostly higher and livestock and meat futures were mixed.

Platinum settled $7.40 to $8.30 higher on the New York Mercantile Exchange, with the contract for delivery in April at $546.70 an ounce.

Japanese commercial traders, who recently had been absent from the platinum market, began buying futures early in the session, which encouraged others to enter the market.

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The rally slowly gathered steam, then accelerated rapidly in afternoon trading after the April contract’s price surpassed $544 an ounce, analysts said.

“We hit buy stops right over that, ran up to $548, then pulled back,” said Bette Raptopoulos, a metals market analyst with Prudential-Bache Securities Inc. in New York.

Observers noted an easing of concern about the possibility that a strike in the base-metals section of South Africa’s Rustenburg metals complex would spread to the platinum refinery, which processes about half of the world’s platinum.

“That’s definitely a contributing factor but it’s not as prominent as it was last week,” said James Steel, an analyst with Refco in New York.

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Trading volume in precious metals futures was thin, both on the New York Merc and on New York’s Commodity Exchange, where gold and silver futures are traded.

Copper Futures Slump

Gold settled $1.10 to $1.20 higher with April at $390.50 an ounce; silver was 0.6 to 0.8 cent higher with March at $5.809 an ounce.

Copper futures retreated on the Commodity Exchange after five straight days of gains.

The decline was linked to the London Metal Exchange’s report of a relatively large, 4,500-ton increase last week in its warehouse stocks of copper, and to a 337-ton increase over the weekend in warehouse stocks registered with the Commodity Exchange.

Copper settled 1.4 to 3.1 cents lower, with May at $1.42 a pound.

Oil futures climbed moderately higher on the New York Merc after an International Energy Agency report showing a reduction in crude oil output by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries last month.

Meanwhile, Soviet energy officials said Monday that they were willing to extend a previously announced 5% cutback in crude oil production beyond the original six-month deadline in a bid to help boost prices.

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West Texas Intermediate crude oil settled 11 to 21 cents higher, with April at $18.67 a barrel; heating oil was 0.32 to 0.63 cent higher, with April at 51.43 cents a gallon, and unleaded gasoline was 0.06 to 0.87 cent higher, with April at 51.59 cents a gallon.

Wheat futures made solid gains on the Chicago Board of Trade after a weekend of drier-than-expected weather in the Great Plains, the heart of the winter-wheat country.

Wheat also was supported by reports that China was seeking to buy 400,000 metric tons of U.S. wheat at subsidized prices.

Livestock Prices Mixed

Wheat settled 2.25 to 7.50 cents higher, with the contract for delivery in March at $4.35 a bushel; corn was 2 cents lower to 1.50 cents higher, with March at $2.7975 a bushel; oats were 2.50 to 4.25 cents higher, with March at $2.0975 a bushel, and soybeans were 2.75 to 8.50 cents higher, with March at $7.705 a bushel.

Livestock futures settled mixed in lackluster trading on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. Frozen pork bellies finished sharply higher, erasing about half the losses sustained in last Friday’s steep selloff.

Live cattle were 0.15 cent lower to 0.12 cent higher, with April at 77.80 cents a pound; feeder cattle were 0.15 to 0.43 cent lower, with March at 82.10 cents a pound; live hogs were 0.28 cent lower to 0.52 cent higher, with April at 43.87 cents a pound, and frozen pork bellies were 1.85 cent lower to 1.38 cent higher, with March at 38.95 cents a pound.

Tables, Page 12

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