COMMODITIES-Valentine's tastiest raw materials down from 2010
* Sugar at more than 2-year low; down 40 pct from Feb 2010
* Cocoa near 8-month low, down 3 pct from three years ago
* Platinum, palladium down from 2010
* Gold, silver up sharply from 2010's commodity surge
NEW YORK, Feb 14 (Reuters) - Sugar and cocoa fell on Thursday as did gold and silver, but the commodities behind some of Valentine's Day treats have taken different paths from three years ago, with the sweets lower and the shiny items higher. A sell-off in corn -- whose syrup is used to sweeten hundreds of food products -- and wheat -- without which cakes and pastries cannot be made -- has also accelerated. Some of the most precious materials used in Valentine gifts are still a lot costlier than in 2010, when commodity markets rebounded faster-than-expected and posted their last annual gain since the financial crisis. The price of gold, for instance, is above $1,640 an ounce -- about $500 more, or nearly 45 percent, that three years ago, despite hitting a six-week low in Thursday's session. Silver has also shot up, to more than $30 per ounce from just below $17 in February 2010. Prices for both of these shiny metals were slightly lower on Thursday. The average commodity, best measured by benchmark indexes such as the Thomson Reuters-Jefferies CRB, is also trading below 2010 levels -- showing the cyclical nature of the asset class and the overall difficulty faced in recapturing the 2005-2008 boom years.
SUGAR, COCOA IN OVERSUPPLY Cocoa, chocolate's raw material, and sugar are good examples, trading at least a third below their February 2010 levels, due to oversupply and a less-than-certain economic outlook. "These things will definitely go up again in price, but they need time as growers will first have to plant less to ensure there's more demand than supply at the next harvest," said Nick Gentile, trader at Atlantic Capital Advisors in Jersey City, New Jersey. Raw sugar's benchmark front-month contract in New York fell 2 percent to below 18 cents a lb for the first time since August 2010, and dealers said surplus supplies could drive prices even lower. Compared to three years ago, the contract is down about 40 percent. Sugar is the worst performing commodity on the CRB index this year, falling nearly 7 percent, as it struggles to absorb a third season of overproduction. In cocoa, the second-month contract in New York fell 0.7 percent on the day to $2,155 a tonne, near an 8-month low. Compared to February 2010 highs, it is down 33 percent. Coffee, like sugar, fell to the lowest level in more than two years, with the premium arabica grade hitting $1.4010 a lb in early New York trade.
CORN, WHEAT HIT BY FRIENDLY WEATHER Corn futures slipped for a 10th straight session, their longest string of declines since 2007, as crop-friendly weather in South America and expectations of higher global supplies dragged down prices. Corn's front-month contract in Chicago was down 3-1/2 cents, 0.5 percent, at $6.92 per bushel. Wheat futures fell as improving U.S. weather conditions and fund selling overshadowed strong weekly U.S. export sales data. Front-month wheat in Chicago slipped 9 cents, 1.2 percent, to $7.26-1/2 a bushel. The sell-off in the two grains also pressured soybean futures, which fell about half a percent to $14.16 a bushel.
PLATINUM, PALLADIUM HALT RALLY Platinum fell half a percent for the session, hovering at just below $1,710 an ounce. Contrary to the trend in sugar and other crops, platinum prices have mostly rallied since the start of the year as funds chased up prices of the jewelry- and autocatalytic- making metal deemed to be in short supply. Platinum is up 10 percent on the year, hitting a near 17-month high above $1,740 a week ago. Palladium, a part of the platinum group metals(PGMs), was also down half a percent at around $761 an ounce. It had surged to $775 -- a high since Sept. 2011 -- in Wednesday's session and is up 8 percent for the year.
Prices at 1:58 p.m. EST (1858 GMT)
LAST NET PCT YTD CHG CHG CHG US crude 97.33 0.32 0.3% 6.0% Brent crude 117.86 -0.02 0.0% 6.1% Natural gas 3.158 -0.148 -4.5% -5.8%US gold 1635.00 -10.10 -0.6% -2.4% Gold 1634.81 -7.55 -0.5% -2.4% US Copper 374.05 -0.20 -0.1% 2.4% LME Copper 8241.00 15.00 0.2% 3.9% Dollar 80.480 0.389 0.5% 4.8% CRB <.TRJCRB 0.000 0.000 0.0% -100.0%US corn 691.00 -4.50 -0.7% -1.0% US soybeans 1414.25 -8.75 -0.6% -0.3% US wheat 727.00 -8.50 -1.2% -6.6%US Coffee 137.70 -1.05 -0.8% -4.2% US Cocoa 2133.00 -10.00 -0.5% -4.6% US Sugar 17.97 -0.26 -1.4% -7.9%US silver 30.400 -0.469 -1.5% 0.6% US platinum 1714.00 -18.80 -1.1% 11.4% US palladium 764.35 -7.70 -1.0% 8.7%