COMMODITIES-Rally on euro zone data, Fed policy and crop worries
* Benchmark index jumps 1 pct, biggest gain since November
* Brent crude hits highest since Oct 16
* Corn at 7-week highs, soybeans 6-week top
* Copper at nearly one-month peak, gold up too
* Cocoa bucks trend, plumbs 7-month low
NEW YORK, Jan 30 (Reuters) - Commodities rallied on Wednesday, with oil, corn and soybean prices hitting multi-week highs, propelled by encouraging economic data from Europe, a weak dollar and concerns about tighter supplies of raw materials. Copper prices rose to their highest levels in nearly a month, although gains in the metal were capped by an unexpected slowdown in the U.S. economy in the fourth quarter. Gold also ended higher, partly on the pledge by the U.S. Federal Reserve to maintain its monthly $85 billion bond-buying stimulus plan. Cocoa bucked the trend, plumbing a seven-month low on worries over plentiful supply. Arabica coffee, another key "soft commodity" like cocoa, fell ahead of a rebalancing by the Rogers International Commodity Index which will drop arabica in favor of robusta coffee. The Thomson Reuters-Jefferies CRB index, which serves as a global indicator for commodities, settled up 1 percent for its sharpest gain since Nov. 19. Fifteen of the CRB's 19 components rose, with orange juice, nickel, silver, natural gas, aluminium, gasoline and soybeans all rallying about 2 percent or more.
OIL JUMPS ON EUROPEAN DATA, WEAK DOLLAR On energy markets, London-traded Brent settled 54 cents higher at $114.90 a barrel after hitting $115.24, its highest since Oct. 16. U.S. crude oil finished up 37 cents at $97.94. Gasoline futures in New York broke the $3.00 a gallon mark for the first time since the end of September, settling up over 2 percent at $3.0387. The broad run-up came after economic sentiment in the euro zone improved more than expected across all sectors in January, up for the third month in a row. The data raised hopes that the region could be emerging from a low point. The dollar's drop to a 14-month low against the euro after the Fed pledge to kept interest rates near zero also underpinned energy markets, as did an early rally in Wall Street stocks. "Overall, global macroeconomic trends such as the dollar and global equity indices hitting new 52-week highs have been pushing crude higher," said Chris Jarvis, president of Caprock Risk Management in Boston.
CORN, SOY RISE ON ARGENTINE CROP WEATHER WORRY Corn futures climbed to a seven-week high and soybeans a six-week top as concerns increased that dry weather will cut production in major exporter Argentina. Worries about dryness, coupled with technical and fund buying, also overshadowed weakening demand for corn used to make ethanol, traders said. U.S. ethanol production slumped to its lowest level since the government started collecting data more than two years ago, according to the Energy Information Administration. "The dry growing conditions are attracting a lot of attention," said Tomm Pfitzenmaier, analyst for Summit Commodity Brokerage. "There is little rain forecasted there for the next two weeks and they have already gone four weeks without rainfall." Chicago-traded soybeans for March soybeans ended up 1.9 percent at $14.78-3/4 a bushel, while March corn jumped 1.5 percent to $7.40-1/4 a bushel.
GOLD, METALS RISE PARTLY ON FED PLEDGE Three-month copper in London surged 1.4 percent to $8,215 a tonne in official trading in the third day of gains, after touching $8,240, its highest since Jan. 3. In gold, the spot price was up 0.7 percent at $1,675.96 an ounce by 5:00 pm. ET, having risen as much as 1.1 percent to a one-week high of $1,682.90 right after the Fed's policy statement earlier in the afternoon.
Prices at 5:16 p.m. EST (2216 GMT)
LAST/ NET PCT YTD CLOSE CHG CHG CHG US crude 98.01 0.44 0.5% 6.7% Brent crude 115.02 0.66 0.6% 3.5% Natural gas 3.335 0.077 2.4% -0.5%US gold 1679.90 19.10 1.2% 0.2% Gold 1676.17 -0.53 0.0% 0.1% US Copper 375.00 5.85 1.6% 2.7% LME Copper 8226.00 123.00 1.5% 3.7% Dollar 79.271 -0.293 -0.4% 3.3%US corn 740.25 10.75 1.5% 6.0% US soybeans 1478.75 27.00 1.9% 4.2% US wheat 787.00 10.00 1.3% 1.2%US Coffee 147.70 -2.10 -1.4% 2.7% US Cocoa 2179.00 -16.00 -0.7% -2.5% US Sugar 18.71 0.33 1.8% -4.1%US silver 32.177 0.993 3.2% 6.5% US platinum 1677.40 0.00 0.0% 9.0% US palladium 751.40 1.65 0.2% 6.8%