COMMODITIES-Multimonth highs in US crude, platinum group metals
* US jobs, housing data boost industrial commodities
* Platinum at 3-month high, palladium at 16-month peaks
* Gold near 1-month high; copper gains most in 2 weeks
* US crude at 4-month high, Algerian attack supports price
NEW YORK, Jan 17 (Reuters) - Platinum, palladium and oil hit multimonth highs on Thursday, and copper posted its biggest gains in two weeks, as bullish U.S. jobs and housing data sparked a broad run-up in commodities, particularly those for industrial use. Soft commodities also trended higher, with robusta coffee in London scaling 2-1/2 month highs and cocoa closing up. Grain prices fell as corn snapped an eight-day long rally, its longest since June, on profit-taking. The Thomson Reuters-Jefferies CRB index, a commodities bellwether, hit a six-week high after 9 of its 19 components rose by more than 1 percent. Supply worries and geopolitical tensions played into the action. Platinum and palladium jumped partly on worries from earlier in the week that top miner Amplats was looking into a production overhaul that could cut 400,000 ounces of annual platinum output.
US CRUDE AT four-MONTH HIGHS In oil, U.S. crude futures hit four-month highs on news that at least six foreign hostages were killed when security forces battled with Islamist rebels who had taken over a remote desert gas plant in Algeria. Most markets began the day higher after U.S. job indicators showed a five-year low in the number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits. Also supportive was data showing groundbreaking work on new U.S. homes accelerating in December to its fastest pace in over four years. U.S. crude settled up 1.3 percent at $95.49 a barrel in New York, after racing to its September high of $96.04. The more important benchmark for oil, London-traded Brent crude, also rose 1.3 percent to close at $111.10.
INDUSTRIAL COMMODITIES RALLY The bigger action was in metals. Platinum jumped to a three-month high of above $1,700 an ounce, passing the price of gold for the second session in a row after the upbeat U.S. jobs and housing data boosted optimism about demand for industrial commodities. Palladium also rallied, hitting a 16-month high at $727 an ounce, as investors in platinum group metals (PGMs) remained wary about the supply squeeze that could be coming from Amplats' production revamp. PGMs are largely used in the exhaust systems of cars to reduce toxic fumes. Since the year began, platinum, which is also popular in jewelry making, has risen about 10 percent in price and palladium about 8 percent. Thomson Reuters data shows the Relative Strength Index for both metals above 60, technically putting them in overbought territory. Many think prices for both will push higher. "The two markets are up nicely, but it's not like the move has been parabolic. We do think PGMs have more to go," said Mark Luschini, chief investment strategist of Janney Montgomery Scott, a broker-dealer which manages $54 billion in assets. Gold set a milestone too. The spot price of bullion rose 1 percent to a one-month high above $1,695 as the dollar gave back its early strength versus the euro. Gold pared its gains by the close, hovering around $1,687, or about 0.5 percent higher. At their lows on Thursday, bullion and platinum were almost at parity at around $1,666 an ounce. At their peak, the difference was $5, in platinum's favor. "There is a significant chance of platinum moving back to a normal type of premium of at least $100 (against gold)," INTL Commodities CEO Jeff Rhodes said. In copper, the benchmark three-month contract in London rose 1.3 percent, its most in a day since Jan. 2, to close at $8,054 a tonne. The session high was $8,065.
Prices at 4:23 p.m. EST (2123 GMT)
LAST/ NET PCT YTD CLOSE CHG CHG CHG US crude 95.34 1.09 1.2% 3.8% Brent crude 111.04 1.36 1.2% -0.1% Natural gas 3.494 0.059 1.7% 4.3%US gold 1690.80 7.60 0.5% 0.9% Gold 1687.55 8.66 0.5% 0.8% US Copper 366.20 5.55 1.5% 0.3% LME Copper 8054.00 108.00 1.4% 1.6% Dollar 79.688 -0.116 -0.2% 3.8%US corn 724.50 -6.75 -0.9% 3.8% US soybeans 1430.25 -6.25 -0.4% 0.8% US wheat 781.25 -3.75 -0.5% 0.4%US Coffee 155.50 2.50 1.6% 8.1% US Cocoa 2300.00 44.00 2.0% 2.9% US Sugar 18.42 -0.03 -0.2% -5.6%US silver 31.810 0.268 0.8% 5.2% US platinum 1697.80 5.60 0.3% 10.3% US palladium 726.15 -0.30 0.0% 3.2%