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Oil prices rise as Middle East conflict persists

Oil futures were up more than 1% on Thursday as tensions in the Middle East grew, with a Saudi-led coalition launching air strikes in retaliation for recent attacks on its crude infrastructure.

Brent crude futures settled at $72.62 a barrel, up 85 cents, or 1.18%, after touching their highest level in three weeks. US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures settled at $62.87 a barrel, gaining 81 cents, or 1.37%, after hitting its strongest level in two weeks.

The Saudi-led military coalition in Yemen carried out several air strikes on the Houthi-held capital Sanaa on Thursday after the Iranian-aligned movement claimed responsibility for drone attacks on two Saudi oil pumping stations earlier in the week.

Saudi Arabia’s deputy defense minister accused Iran of ordering the drone attack on the pumping stations. It comes after attacks on four oil tankers off the coast of United Arab Emirates on Sunday.

Taken together, the escalation of tensions has compounded fears of lowered supply in the Middle East. US staff were ordered to leave the American embassy in Baghdad on Wednesday out of concern about perceived threats from Iran.


Gold prices decline

Gold prices on Friday slipped to their lowest in two weeks as the dollar advanced on the back of strong US economic data, putting the metal on track for its biggest weekly decline in a month.

Spot gold fell 0.8% to $1,276.25 per ounce as of 1:46 p.m. EDT (1746 GMT), having dropped to its lowest since May 3 at $1,274.51 earlier in the session. The metal is down 0.7% for the week so far, which could be its biggest weekly decline since April 19.

US gold futures settled down 0.82% at $1,275.70 an ounce.

Spot gold fell 0.8% on Thursday, its biggest one-day percentage decline since mid-April, as strong economic data from the United States spurred investors towards riskier assets.

The falls in gold over the past couple of sessions has dented the technical picture for the metal, analysts said.

Among other metals, silver dropped 1% to $14.41 an ounce, after hitting its lowest since Dec. 6 at $14.38 an ounce. Silver is also on track for a decline of more than 2% for the week, its biggest since March 1.

Platinum dipped 1.9% to $813.50 per ounce, having hit a more than two-month low at $812.50 earlier in the session.

Palladium slipped 1.4% to $1,312.51 an ounce. The metal used in catalytic converters in car exhaust systems has slumped about 19% from a record high of $1,620.53 hit in March.

Indonesia’s palm, palm kernel oils exports up 15.8pc y/y in March

Indonesia’s palm and palm kernel oil exports in March rose 15.8pc from the same month a year earlier to 2.78 million tonnes, the Indonesia Palm Oil Association (GAPKI) data showed on Wednesday. On a monthly basis, shipments rose 0.36 percent in March due to increased demand from markets such as South Korea, Japan and Malaysia, GAPKI said in a statement. Shipments to the world’s top vegetable oil market, India, however, fell by 62 percent in March from a month earlier. At the end of March, domestic stocks of palm oil stood at 2.43 million tonnes, down from February’s 2.5 million tonnes, GAPKI said.

Tunisia gets offers in soft wheat, barley tender: trade

The lowest offer in the international tender from Tunisia’s state grains agency on Wednesday to purchase 75,000 tonnes of soft milling wheat was $195.02 a tonne c&f for optional-origin supplies, European traders said. No purchase has yet been made and results are expected later on Wednesday, they said. The lowest offer was made for 25,000 tonnes. This was followed by soft wheat offers for other shipment positions in the tender at $200.10 and $199.23 a tonne c&f, they said. Lowest offers in the tender for 50,000 tonnes of animal feed barley were $192.68 and $194.69 a tonne c&f also for different shipment positions. The Tunisian agency does not always purchase the lowest offer if other conditions connected with the offer are seen as unattractive. The wheat was sought in three 25,000 tonne consignments for shipment between June 25 and Aug. 5, depending on the origin supplied, they said.


Global sugar deficit of 2.34mn tonnes expected for 2019/20

A global sugar deficit of 2.34 million tonnes is seen developing in the 2019/20 season, compared to a 0.48 million-tonne surplus in 2018/19 as output from major Asian players is set to fall, said Plinio Nastari, president of consultancy Datagro. Production in second-largest producer India is forecast to fall to 29.1 million tonnes from 33.2 million tonnes in the previous season, Nastari said during an industry event at New York Sugar Week. Thai output is seen falling to 13.5 million tonnes from 14.55 million in 2018/19, Nastari said. Rising production in other parts of the world, however, will help limit the size of the global deficit. In Brazil’s main cane-growing center-south region, output is expected to rise to 28 million tonnes from 26.5 million tonnes, while production from the European Union is seen rising to 18.32 million tonnes from 17.64 million tonnes, Nastari said.

Gold steadies as stocks retreat; trade uncertainty persists

Gold steadied on Wednesday, consolidating around the key $1,300 level, as global stocks retreated, pointing to reduced appetite for riskier assets while investors awaited clarity on the US-China trade front. Spot gold was up 0.1 percent at $1,297.62 per ounce by 1305 GMT, having hit its highest level since April 11 at $1,303.26 on Tuesday. US gold futures edged up 0.3pc to $1,300.60 an ounce. The euro zone’s biggest economy, Germany rebounded in the first quarter, growing 0.4 percent after zero growth in the previous three months. A global equity bounce stemming from softer rhetoric by US President Donald Trump on the trade dispute with China waned on Wednesday as grim Chinese data and fresh Italian debt woes cast a shadow over global markets.

Northam platinum plans to buy back preference shares

Northam Platinum plans to buy back about 15 million preference shares out of 159 million currently in issue in the financial year ending June 2020, its chief executive said on Wednesday. The miner, one of the top platinum producers globally, wants to reward shareholders following a boost to profits from higher metals prices. It issued the preference shares in 2014, to a consortium of black investors in exchange for a cash injection of $600 million into its balance sheet at that time.

US close to resolving steel, aluminum tariffs with Canada, Mexico

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Wednesday said the United States is close to resolving steel and aluminum tariffs with Canada and Mexico, the Wall Street Journal reported. US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, who is scheduled to meet with Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, will propose a process for removing steel and aluminum tariffs, CNBC reported separately citing an unnamed senior official.

Iraq cancels request for at least 30,000 tonnes US rice

Iraq’s trade ministry is believed to have cancelled a restricted tender to buy least 30,000 tonnes of rice from the United States which closed on Wednesday, traders said. No purchase was reported. Iraq had sought offers from a limited number of suppliers in the United States and had not issued a formal international tender. Long grain white rice was sought.

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