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COMMODITIES-Natgas sinks again, gold and wheat also tumble; oil up

(Reuters is considering dropping the daily commodities wrap after March 10 and publishing the report on a discretionary basis. Please send any comments on this move to Josephine Mason at josephine.masonzthomsonreuters.com) NEW YORK, Feb 26 (Reuters) - Losses in natural gas dominated the action in commodities for a third straight session on Wednesday, unraveling annual gains racked up earlier by the heating fuel, while gold, silver and wheat prices also showed significant declines. Meat products such as lean hog futures and live cattle continued to post gains on concerns of tighter supply. But at the other end of the agricultural spectrum, U.S. wheat futures plunged 2.4 percent for their worst losses in a month, pressured by worries that the recent run-up in prices to a two-month high would make supplies from the United States less competitive in global markets. U.S. oil prices rose after government data showed a surprisingly small build in crude oil inventories amid another large drawdown at the American benchmark's delivery point. The 19-commodity Thomson Reuters/Core Commodity Index was barely changed at the close after the mixed performance across the complex. U.S. natural gas futures ended nearly 5 percent lower on Wednesday as the front-month March contract expired after a wild ride that included touching the highest price in five years and the biggest three-day fall in eight years. "It has been a money game," said Steve Platt, an analyst at Archer Financial in Chicago. "The market got overpriced relative to coal and even maybe to power. You saw some pulling back on the demand side even though the weather was pretty devastating." The March natural gas contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange expired at $4.855 per million British thermal units, down 24.1 cents, or 4.7 percent, on the day. This week's drop whittled the 2014 gain in gas futures to 15 percent from 53 percent at the high seen Monday as arctic weather and record heating demand rapidly depleted gas supplies in storage. Wednesday's decline followed a 6 percent drop on Tuesday and an 11 percent fall on Monday after prices hit a five-year high of $6.49 per mmBtu, continuing a trend of huge price swings this winter. Gold fell almost 1 percent to $1,330.70 an ounce, retreating from a four-month high as a dollar rally and surging U.S. new home sales dented bullion's safe-haven appeal. Silver fell 2.6 percent, partly in sympathy with gold.

Prices at 5:28 p.m. EST (2228 GMT)

LAST/ NET PCT CLOSE CHG CHG US crude 97.29 0.76 0.8% Brent crude 106.18 -0.04 0.0% Natural gas 4.855 -0.241 -4.7% US gold 1328.20 -14.80 -1.1% Gold 1329.90 -0.80 -0.1% US Copper 3.24 -0.01 -0.4% LME Copper 7026.00 -38.50 -0.5% Dollar 80.406 0.267 0.3% CRB 301.614 0.035 0.0% US corn 455.50 -0.25 -0.1% US soybeans 1407.25 8.25 0.6% US wheat 600.00 -15.00 -2.4% US Coffee 177.10 1.45 0.8% US Cocoa 2909.00 10.00 0.3% US Sugar 17.29 -0.05 -0.3% US silver 21.254 21.034 1.6% US platinum 1429.10 -13.50 0.0% US palladium 731.50 -4.60 -0.6%

(Editing by Matthew Lewis)