COMMODITIES-Oil, copper surge on US housing; gold watches Fed
* US crude up more than 1 pct, exceeding gains in Brent
* Copper rises nearly 2 pct year-to-date
* Gold up too, snapping 4-day losing streak
* Grains swept up in broad rally, sugar bucks trend
NEW YORK, Jan 29 (Reuters) - Oil and copper prices rose for a second straight day on Tuesday as strong U.S. housing market data bolstered confidence that economic growth and fuel demand were accelerating. Gold also rose, snapping a four-day losing streak. The rebound came on short-covering and expectations that a meeting of the Federal Reserve later in the week will retain U.S. short-term interest rates at exceptionally low levels until the unemployment rate falls to 6.5 percent, inflation permitting.
On the agricultural side, corn and soybean futures inched higher as dry weather threatened to reduce production in major exporter Argentina. Wheat rose on deteriorating crop conditions in the U.S. Plains. Sugar tumbled on heavy volume after diminished worries about potentially damaging rains in Australia, the world's third-biggest exporter of the commodity. Raw sugar futures in New York fell 2 percent, wiping out the previous day's rally that took the market to a 2-week high. Volume was roughly 14 percent above the 250-day moving average, according to preliminary Thomson Reuters data. Sugar was also the biggest loser for the day on the Thomson Reuters-Jefferies CRB index, which serves as a commodities bellwether. Thirteen of the 19 markets on the CRB ended in positive territory, with silver, cotton and heating oil all gaining about 2 percent each.
CRUDE JUMPS ON US HOUSING/ECONOMIC RECOVERY U.S. crude oil rose more than 1 percent, exceeding gains in London's benchmark Brent crude, after data pointed to continued recovery in America's once-battered housing market. Oil traders have been monitoring U.S. economic numbers for signs of a potential improvement in fuel demand. Crude rallied along with other financial markets after U.S. single-family home prices rose in November for the 10th month in a row and posted its biggest year-on-year rise since August 2006, according to data from the S&P/Case Shiller composite index of 20 metropolitan areas. U.S. crude gained nearly 1.2 percent to settle at $97.57, off its session high of $97.82. Brent crude rose 88 cents to settle at $114.36 per barrel, having reached $114.49, its highest price since Oct. 16, 2012. Trading volume was heavy, with U.S. crude 33 percent above its 30-day moving average and Brent more than 20 percent above than its own 30-day moving average.
COPPER RISES ON CHINA GROWTH COMMENTS Copper prices rose after China's top think tank lifted its economic growth forecast for 2013 to 8.4 percent from 8.2 percent, with faster expansion seen in the first half of the year. China is the world's largest buyer of copper. London's three-month copper ended up at $8,103 a tonne, from a close of $8,050 on Monday. The metal's year-to-date gains amounted to just under 2 percent. Some investors in copper were also optimistic that first estimates for fourth-quarter gross domestic product in the United States on Wednesday could indicate signs of fledgling economic growth.
GOLD BOOSTED BY FED EXPECTATIONS In gold, traders awaited the outcome of a two-day Federal Reserve policy meeting. The Fed has said it expects to keep short-term U.S. interest rates exceptionally low to help support the economy. The low rates have helped push up prices of gold as well as industrial commodities such as oil and copper, as investors pour cash into riskier asset classes. "What's going to come out of the Fed is more of the same, so we can just anticipate that (quantitative easing) is here at least for a little while longer," said Jeffrey Sica, chief investment officer of SICA Wealth, who oversees more than $1 billion in client assets. The spot price of gold was up 0.5 percent at $1,662.90 an ounce by 6:15 p.m. EST (2315 GMT), recovering from Monday's 2-1/2 week low of $1,651.93. U.S. gold futures' most-active contract settled up $7.90 at $1,660.80 an ounce, with volume more than 40 percent above the 250-day average. Prices at 5:43 p.m. EST (2243 GMT)
LAST/ NET PCT YTD CLOSE CHG CHG CHG US crude 97.32 1.13 1.2% 6.0% Brent crude 114.24 0.76 0.7% 2.8% Natural gas 3.258 -0.047 -1.4% -2.8%US gold 1660.80 7.90 0.5% -0.9% Gold 1663.15 -0.30 0.0% -0.7% US Copper 369.15 3.00 0.8% 1.1% LME Copper 8103.00 53.00 0.7% 2.2% Dollar 79.569 -0.179 -0.2% 3.6%US corn 729.50 0.25 0.0% 4.5% US soybeans 1451.75 4.00 0.3% 2.3% US wheat 777.00 -2.25 -0.3% -0.1%US Coffee 149.80 0.80 0.5% 4.2% US Cocoa 2195.00 34.00 1.6% -1.8% US Sugar 18.38 -0.35 -1.9% -5.8%US silver 31.184 0.404 1.3% 3.2% US platinum 1677.40 16.20 1.0% 9.0% US palladium 749.75 9.20 1.2% 6.6%