Copper prices eased off their highs Monday after it appeared production would not be seriously hurt by a massive earthquake off the coast of Chile over the weekend.
Chile is one of the largest producers of the industrial metal. However, most of its production plants and mines are in the north of the country, while the earthquake struck near the country's southern region.
May copper rose 6.6 cents, or 2 percent, to settle at $3.35 a pound. In morning trading, prices climbed as high as $3.487 a pound.
"It was a big scare," Frank Cholly Sr., a senior market strategist at Lind-Waldock, said of the potential impact of the earthquake. The quick jump in prices during morning trading provided a good selling opportunity for many traders, keeping the gains in check, Cholly said.
Copper has risen steadily since hitting its low for the year in early February. The rise has mainly been tied to increased expectations for demand.
Like copper, cotton has also consistently climbed over the past month. Concerns about supply have pushed its price to the highest level since the middle of 2008.
"Cotton has been the loser in competing for acreage," in recent years, which has cut into supply, Cholly said. Farmers have been replacing cotton in their fields with grains.
March cotton rose 1.14 cents to settle at 83.75 cents a pound.
Prices for cotton and grains could be in for a dramatic shift at the end of March when an annual report on farmers' planting forecasts for 2010 is released.
Grain prices mainly fell. May wheat contracts dropped 14.75 cents to settle at $5.045 a bushel. Corn fell 7.25 cents to $3.8175 a bushel, while soybeans rose 1.5 cents to $9.625 a bushel.
Energy prices also fell. Benchmark crude for April delivery fell 96 cents to $78.70 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Gasoline fell 3.23 cents to $2.1556 a gallon. Natural gas prices fell 13.5 cents to $4.679 per 1,000 cubic feet.
Heating oil fell 1.18 cents to settle at $2.0235 a gallon.
Gold dipped modestly as the dollar rose. April gold rose 60 cents to settle at $1,118.30 an ounce. The ICE Futures US dollar index, which measures the dollar against six currencies, rose 0.5 percent.
Elsewhere, orange juice surged. The price of frozen orange juice concentrate for March delivery jumped 6.95 cents, or 4.8 percent, to settle at $1.506 a pound. Orange juice has been volatile the first two months of the year because of concerns about cold weather in Florida this winter affecting the crop of fresh oranges.
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