COMMODITIES-Wheat, soy top 2012 gains; coffee, juice lead losses
* CRB index down for 2nd year as losses overwhelm gains
* U.S. wheat up 19 pct on year, soybeans rise 18 pct
* Gold climbs 6 pct, extending bull run to 12th year
* Oil up for fourth straight year, copper rises too
* Coffee down nearly 40 pct; orange juice off 30 pct
NEW YORK, Dec 31 (Reuters) - Wheat and soybeans posted the highest gains and coffee the biggest loss while gold's rally stretched to a 12th year as commodities ended 2012 focused on the U.S. fiscal crisis after riding through a blistering drought and Europe's debt debacle. Oil rose for a fourth straight year since the 2008 financial crisis, setting a record annual average price above $111 a barrel. But annual gains from oil - and copper - were modest as a weak global economy weighed on a strong couple of quarters for the two industrial commodities. The Thomson Reuters-Jefferies CRB index, a widely followed commodities indicator, finished flat on the day but down for a second year - losing more than 3 percent - despite 13 winners among the 19 mostly U.S.-traded markets on its list. Three of the CRB's components posted double-digit gains: Chicago-traded wheat leading with 19 percent, followed by soybeans and natural gas. Four markets, all agricultural-based, had double-digit losses, with New York-traded arabica coffee falling nearly 40 percent and orange juice just over 30 percent.
FOCUS ON U.S. 'FISCAL CLIFF' Analysts and traders said they were optimistic of a surge in commodity investments in the new year after President Barack Obama announced on Monday that the White House and its rival Republicans in Congress were close to a deal on the U.S. "fiscal cliff". Most commodities staged a last-gasp rally on news of the potential deal to avert some $600 billion in tax increases and spending cuts in 2013 that could otherwise send the U.S. economy into another recession. "I think we'll see a rally in copper prices in the first quarter and I wouldn't be surprised to see new money hitting commodities early next year as it is still a good investment," said Randy North, director at RBC Capital Markets. Money managers said investors seem willing to take more risks in 2013 in hopes of greater rewards after spending most of this year in a defensive crouch. Recent U.S. data showed contracts for U.S. home resales hit a 2-1/2-year high in November and factory activity in the Midwest expanded in December, suggesting some strength in the economy.
STRONG OUTLOOK FOR WHEAT, PALLADIUM Wheat prices surged after poor crop weather in major exporters from Russia to Argentina created supply tensions. Aside from its 19 percent gain in Chicago, wheat was up 27 percent in Paris. U.S. wheat ended the day down, near a six-month low at $7.78 a bushel. French milling wheat settled close to a five-month bottom at 248 euros ($330) a tonne. The outlook for wheat remains strong, with the U.S. crop for next year's harvest suffering from a lack of moisture and appearing vulnerable to frost damage this winter. Demand is also steady after the recent pullback in Chicago prices. Soybeans had similar gains to wheat, finishing up nearly 18 percent for the year, but closing down for the day at $14.18-3/4 a bushel in Chicago. Like wheat, soybean prices were driven by inclement weather as record heat in the summer led to the worst U.S. drought in half a century that wiped out a huge swathe of crops. U.S. gold futures ended the year up 6 percent at $1,675.80 an ounce. Gold was helped by rock-bottom interest rates in most leading economies, concerns over the financial stability of the euro zone, and diversification into bullion by central banks. Other precious metals such as palladium, platinum and silver outperformed gold, rising between 7 percent and 10 percent. Palladium has been on a bullish trend since November, when refiner Johnson Matthey projected the biggest supply deficit in 11 years in the metal, largely used as an auto catalyst. Platinum rallied earlier in the year after concerns about worker strikes in top producer South Africa. Copper prices rose for the day and were up 4 percent on the year, finishing at $7,970 a tonne in London and $3.6525 a lb in New York amid confidence in new economic strength for top metals buyer China.
NATGAS OUTPERFORMS OIL; COFFEE BOTTOM OF HEAP In oil, benchmark Brent crude in London finished up on the day and 3.5 percent higher on the year at $111.11 a barrel. U.S. crude ended up on the day and 7 percent higher for the year at $91.82. Oil had a good run in the first and third quarters but slipped toward the year-end on U.S. fiscal worries. Natural gas fell for the day but rose 13 percent for the year, its best since 2007, just before the revolution in shale gas supply took off. Arabica coffee turned in the worst performance of 2012, falling for the day and losing 37 percent for the year due to concerns over record global production. U.S. orange juice futures were the second-weakest performer on the CRB, tumbling for the day and losing 31 percent for the year, as investors liquidated long positions even as merchants continued to worry about the impact of greening disease on crops in citrus-rich Florida.
Prices at 2:59 p.m. EST (1959 GMT)
LAST/ NET PCT YTD CLOSE CHG CHG CHG US crude 91.88 1.08 1.2% -7.0% Brent crude 111.29 0.67 0.6% 3.6% Natural gas 3.351 -0.118 -3.4% 12.1%US gold 1675.80 19.90 1.2% 7.0% Gold 1675.76 20.86 1.2% 7.1% US Copper 365.25 6.30 1.8% 6.3% LME Copper 7931.00 44.00 0.6% 4.4% Dollar 79.764 0.086 0.1% -0.5% CRB 0.000 0.000 0.0% -100.0%US corn 694.00 5.50 0.8% 7.3% US soybeans 1424.00 -4.00 -0.3% 18.8% US wheat 778.75 -1.25 -0.2% 19.3%US Coffee 143.80 -3.05 -2.1% -37.0% US Cocoa 2236.00 -13.00 -0.6% 6.0% US Sugar 19.51 0.09 0.5% -16.0%US silver 30.227 0.252 0.8% 8.3% US platinum 1538.70 21.30 1.4% 9.5% US palladium 703.35 3.05 0.4% 7.2%