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Oil's Slippery Rally Rolls On

Oil up, gold weaker, but higher, copper off the pace, nickel down, but iron ore enjoyed a quiet rally last week by the close on Friday.

For much of last week iron ore prices trembled, especially after China’s October trade data showed a sharp fall in imports of the steel-making material - down 23% to just over 79 million tonnes.

But Friday saw the price edged 28 US cents higher to end the week at $US62.60 for 62% ore delivered to northern China.

That was not only higher over the week by a solid 4.5% on the previous Friday’s $US59.88, but the highest weekly close for more than six weeks.

Despite the solid rise over the week BHP shares fell 1.1%, Rio Tito shares were off 0.1% and Fortescue shares lost nearly 2%.

While oil futures ended lower overnight Friday, they still enjoyed another weekly rise - the 5th in a row.

Oil services group, Baker Hughes reported the number of US oil rigs rose by nine this week, more than reversing the previous week’s fall of 7 units. The rise took the total count to 738, up 286 on the week before.

Brent crude, the global oil benchmark, fell 41 cents, or 0.6%, to end at $US63.52 a barrel in London. That was up 2% for the week.

In New York West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil futures dropped 43 cents, or 0.8% to $US56.74 a barrel. For the week, WTI rose 2.3%.

US oil stocks rose 2.2 million barrels to just over 457 million barrels, still high for this time of the year and weekly production rose 67,000 barrels per day to 9.620 million bpd. That was 928,000 barrels ahead of output a year ago.

Oil prices were buoyed this week after Saudi Arabia detained 201 individuals including princes, businessmen and government officials after a three-year investigation, alleging that an estimated $US100 billion of state funds have been embezzled.

The arrests and claimed helped to push oil prices to more than two-year highs last week.

US December natural gas futures rose 1.3 cents, or 0.4%, to close at $US3.213 per million British thermal units, up 7.7% for the week and the second straight weekly advance.

Comex gold futures settled sharply lower in New York on early Saturday, our time, even as both shares and the US dollar, which typically move inversely to precious metals, slumped on the back of waning confidence for economy-boosting tax reform.

Market participants also speculated about a sizeable intraday sale of a reported 4 million ounces that helped add to selling pressure in the commodity.

December gold finished down $US13.30, or 1%, at $US1,274.20 an ounce, but reported a weekly gain of about 0.4%, according to FactSet data.

That was the first weekly rise in the last four.

In other metals, Comex silver futures for December delivery fell 10.4 cents, or 0.6%, to settle at $US16.871 an ounce, leaving it up 0.2% for the week.

Comex December copper eased a cent, or 0.5%, to $US3.076 a pound, recording a weekly decline of 1.3%.

LME lead ended up around 3% for the week at $US2,550 a tonne.LMR lead stocks have fallen to their lowest level in nearly two years - under 150,000 tonnes and analysts reckon there will be a deficit next year of around 45,000 tonnes, while global demand will exceed supply by around 125,000 tonnes.

LME nickel and copper finished the week weaker.

View More Articles By Glenn Dyer

Glenn Dyer has been a finance journalist and TV producer for more than 40 years. He has worked at Maxwell Newton Publications, Queensland Newspapers, AAP, The Australian Financial Review, The Nine Network and Crikey.

At the AFR he was a finance writer, Finance Editor, News Editor and Chief of Staff. At the Nine Network he was supervising producer of Business Sunday for more than 16 years. He has also written for other online and analogue print publications here and overseas.



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