COMMODITIES-Oil, metals up slightly on demand bets; crops sink
* Crude oil edges higher on OPEC demand data
* Copper boosted by bets for China buying after holiday
* Soybeans, grains and sugar tumble on looming supplies
NEW YORK, Feb 12 (Reuters) - Commodity markets were little changed on Tuesday, with oil edging higher after bullish OPEC demand data and copper boosted by expectations of stronger buying after a week-long holiday in China. Gold rose modestly as the dollar's drop against the euro restored some of gold's appeal as a hedge to the U.S. currency.
Crop prices mostly fell due to looming big supplies. Wheat was down for a second day, hitting 7-1/2 month lows. Corn fell for an eight straight session in its longest losing streak since mid-2010 and soybeans extended losses from Monday. Raw sugar reversed a technical run-up from the previous session. The Thomson Reuters-Jefferies CRB index was down 0.1 percent by 12:00 p.m. ET (1700 GMT), with 10 of the 19 commodity markets it tracked treading positive territory. Gains were helped by a rebound in prices of arabica, the premium-grade coffee, while wheat led losses.
BRENT CRUDE PARES GAINS Benchmark Brent crude oil in London rose to above $118 a barrel, near Friday's nine-month high, before paring gains ahead of weekly crude inventory reports due from the American Petroleum Institute (API) at 2130 GMT. The early run-up in Brent came after OPEC, or the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, said world oil demand will grow faster this year than previously thought. In its monthly market report, the group raised its outlook for the amount of crude that needs to be pumped to keep supply-demand in balance. "Overall, I would say the OPEC report is constructive and mildly bullish based on the demand forecast," said Dominick Chirichella, senior partner at Energy Management Institute in New York. Concerns over Iran's nuclear program had also fed into the early rally. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Iran was installing new centrifuges for uranium enrichment that could cut
Tensions eased when Tehran acknowledged it was converting some of its higher-grade enriched uranium into reactor fuel, a move that could help prevent a dispute with the West over its nuclear program hitting a crisis in mid-year. Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful energy purposes.
COPPER, GOLD UP MODESTLY In copper, the three-month futures contract in London was up at $8,232.50 per tonne from a last bid of $8,199 on Monday. Traders said the market bolstered by the prospect of renewed buying by Chinese industrial customers after the end of the Lunar New Year holiday this week. Copper trading on the Shanghai Futures Exchange is closed all week, while markets in Hong Kong and Singapore will reopen on Wednesday. Copper rallied last week to its highest level in four months at $8,346 per tonne. Although gains have petered out since, prices are still up 3 percent this year. "We are all waiting to see what happens next week when China comes back," Standard Chartered analyst Dan Smith said. Gold clawed back from its lowest level in over a month as the dollar fell after a statement from the Group of Seven industrialized countries reaffirmed the G7's commitment to market-determined exchange rates. Still, gold failed to reprise its safe-haven role after North Korea confirmed having conducted an underground nuclear test. Gold's gains as a dollar hedge were also modest as investors focused more on the brightening global economic picture than on geopolitical tensions. The spot price of gold hit a session low of $1,638.82 an ounce, a bottom since Jan. 4, before rising to above $1,652, showing a 0.1 percent gain.
Prices at 12:34 p.m. EST (1734 GMT)
LAST NET PCT YTD CHG CHG CHG US crude 97.53 0.50 0.5% 6.2% Brent crude 118.26 0.13 0.1% 6.4% Natural gas 3.256 -0.023 -0.7% -2.8%US gold 1652.80 3.70 0.2% -1.4% Gold 1651.99 4.65 0.3% -1.3% US Copper 374.50 2.25 0.6% 2.5% LME Copper 8245.25 46.25 0.6% 4.0% Dollar 79.966 -0.344 -0.4% 4.2%US corn 695.00 -7.00 -1.0% -0.4% US soybeans 1419.50 -12.00 -0.8% 0.1% US wheat 728.50 -13.00 -1.8% -6.4%US Coffee 141.55 1.40 1.0% -1.6% US Cocoa 2182.00 8.00 0.4% -2.4% US Sugar 18.15 -0.29 -1.6% -7.0%US silver 31.080 0.170 0.6% 2.8% US platinum 1703.40 8.40 0.5% 10.7% US palladium 771.45 12.85 1.7% 9.7%