COMMODITIES-Gold, copper fall as US data spark talk of Fed tapering
NEW YORK, Sept 5 (Reuters) - Gold fell to a two-week low on Thursday as upbeat U.S. data raised expectations the Federal Reserve could announce a cut in its stimulus program, and copper slipped too as the dollar's strength weighed on the base metal's price.
Oil rose as the bullish U.S. data and drawdowns in U.S. crude inventories implied more demand from the world's top consumer of the commodity.
On the agricultural side, soybeans rebounded from the previous session's losses as forecasts for slight rains in the U.S. Midwest failed to soothe concerns about diminished yield prospects from an abnormally dry August.
Cocoa futures soared 3 percent in heavy trading, hitting one-year highs and extending Wednesday's rally.
The gains in those crops and in oil helped the 19-commodity Thomson Reuters-Jefferies CRB index offset losses in markets such as gold and copper to settle flat.
The spot price of gold fell to $1,364.91 an ounce, its lowest since Aug. 22, after data showed growth in the U.S. services sector accelerated in August to its fastest pace in almost eight years.
Prospects for the U.S. economy also brightened after a report showed that private employers added 176,000 jobs in August and new claims for jobless benefits fell to a near five-year low last week. Official U.S. jobs data for August is due on Friday.
The Fed is using the labor market's progress as its key in deciding whether to trim monthly purchases of $85 billion in Treasuries and mortgage-backed securities. Economists said recent jobs data suggest the economy in a slow-but-steady mend.
The Fed's stimulus had been a key driver in gold's rally in recent years. This year's 15 percent drop in gold was largely driven by speculation the central bank will start tapering that stimulus with an announcement at its Sept 17-18 meeting.
By 4:00 p.m. EDT (2000 GMT), spot gold was down 1.6 percent at $1,368.01 an ounce, adding to Wednesday's 1.5 percent drop.
U.S. gold futures for December delivery settled down $17, or 1.2 percent, at $1,373 an ounce.
Three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange was untraded at the close but last bid at $7,108, down from Wednesday's close of $7,134.
Copper slipped as the dollar hit a seven-week peak against the euro after the European Central Bank said key ECB interest rates were expected to remain at present or lower levels for an extended period.