Slowdown in China saps oil, copper prices

NEW YORK -- Prices for energy and copper fell Wednesday following the latest signs that China's economy is slowing down.

China, which is a huge importer of basic materials, reported that its services sector expanded at a slower pace in September. Days earlier, the country also reported a slowdown in manufacturing.

Energy prices dropped sharply as a result. Crude oil fell $3.75 to $88.14 per barrel in New York. It was the biggest decline since May 4. Other energy futures also fell.

Copper, another commodity that is highly sensitive to changes in China's economy, fell 1.7 cents to $3.7840 a pound. Other metals prices were mostly higher.

December gold rose $4.20 to finish at $1,779.80 per ounce, December silver edged up 2.1 cents to $34.69 per ounce, and palladium gained $3.70 to $657.90 per ounce. January platinum increased $6.90 to $1,694.10 per ounce.

In other energy trading, natural gas fell 13.6 cents, or 3.8 percent, to $3.395 per 1,000 cubic feet, a day after hitting a high for the year.

Heating oil dropped 5.91 cents to $3.0664 per gallon. Wholesale gasoline dropped 6.97 cents, or 2.4 percent, to $2.7995 per gallon.

Soybean prices rose slightly, a day after falling to their lowest level in nearly three months as a fast-paced harvest delivers more supplies to the marketplace. November soybeans rose 1.25 cents to $15.3175 a bushel.

December corn fell 1.5 cents to $7.5675 a bushel and December wheat rose 1.5 cents to $8.73 a bushel.