NEW YORK, Feb 4 (Reuters) - U.S. natural gas futures jumped 8 percent on Tuesday on forecasts for colder weather, while wheat rallied as worries about dry weather and declining crop conditions in the southern Plains prompted investors to cover short positions. Other agricultural futures also rose sharply, with soybeans rising for a fourth straight session on strong export demand for U.S. soymeal, and corn firmed on chart-based buying and recent export demand. Broad gains in grains and natural gas lifted the Thomson Reuters/Core Commodity Index 1 percent to 286.437, the biggest one-day gain in nearly a month for the global commodities bellwether. Front-month natural gas futures on the New York Mercantile Exchange rose 41.2 cents, or 8.4 percent, to $5.317 per million British thermal units by 3:34 p.m. EST (20:34 GMT).
MDA Weather Services on Tuesday forecast very cold weather in the U.S. Northwest, Rockies and Plains over the next five days and strong cold in the Midwest to East over the next six to 10 days. U.S. crude oil rose by around $1 per barrel as traders expected data to show oil inventories were beginning to drain in earnest from the benchmark's delivery point at Cushing, Oklahoma, after the start-up of TransCanada's Keystone south pipeline. U.S. crude oil futures for March delivery settled up 76 cents at $97.19 per barrel.
GRAINS BROADLY RISE Wheat's near 4 percent rally followed monthly state crop reports issued late Monday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture that showed a drop in wheat condition ratings in major hard red winter wheat states including Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. Investors digested news that the U.S. Senate gave final congressional approval to a nearly $1 trillion farm bill that trims food stamps for the poor, expands federal crop insurance and ends direct payments to farmers. The bill was sent to President Barack Obama for his expected signature.
ICE arabica coffee futures pared gains from an 8-1/2 month high in heavy volume, as producers sold into the recent surge.
In the metal markets, gold dropped as sharp gains in U.S. equities and a stronger dollar prompted investors to reduce safety bets in bullion, while copper steadied after hitting a fresh two-month low.
(Editing by David Gregorio)