COMMODITIES-Up on bets for 'friendlier' Fed after jobs report

Barani Krishnan
Friday, 7 Feb 2014 | 4:35 PM ET

NEW YORK, Feb 7 (Reuters) - U.S. crude oil rallied above $100 a barrel on Friday and gold and copper prices rose too after a weak U.S. jobs report for January led to expectations the Federal Reserve might slow down its stimulus cutback and rate hike plans. Corn and soybean prices ended slightly higher in Chicago, while cocoa futures rose more than 1 percent in New York, helping sentiment in the agriculture and softs markets. Chicago-traded wheat closed down more than half a percent to buck the broadly higher trend in commodities. But for the week, the market was up nearly 4 percent for its largest weekly gain since September. Wheat prices rose between Monday and Wednesday on worries about potential damage to crops from cold, dry conditions in the U.S. Midwest. The Thomson Reuters/Core Commodity Index rose 2.3 percent on the week for its biggest weekly advance since mid-August. For the day, the commodities bellwether climbed 0.9 percent, reflecting gains in 15 of the 19 markets it tracked. Natural gas aside, most energy markets rose in Friday's trade. Gasoline and crude oil gained about 2 percent each to finish as the CRB's best performers. Energy traders cited the potential for friendlier Fed action after the disappointing U.S. job numbers for January, and more demand for heating fuel products in one of the worst winters in decades. "The January jobs report isn't really bad but it's feeding the idea that the Fed might want to play even more carefully with its stimulus withdrawal and rate hike plans," said Adam Sarhan, president at New York-based financial advisory and boutique investment firm Sarhan Capital. "Any Fed inertia on these is welcome by the markets." U.S. non-farm payrolls grew by just 113,000 in January versus economist expectations for 185,000. The jobless rate, meanwhile, hit a five-year low of 6.6 percent, just above the 6.5 percent that Fed officials have said would prompt them to consider raising benchmark interest rates from near zero. U.S. gasoline's front-month contract settled at $2.7489 a gallon, up 2.5 percent for the session and nearly 5 percent higher on the week. Front-month crude oil hit the year's high of $100.21 a barrel in New York, before settling at $99.88, up 2.1 percent on the day and 2.6 percent on the week. Gold, a hedge to the economy, rose about 1 percent to trade above $1,266 an ounce. Copper, regarded as a true indicator of the economy and price-setter for other base metals, rose 0.2 percent to settle at $7,141 a tonne. 1/8GOL/

(Editing by Matthew Lewis)