IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Energy, metals fall on weak economic reports

Energy and metal contracts fell Thursday after reports on jobs and manufacturing renewed caution about the strength of the economy.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Energy and metal contracts fell Thursday after reports on jobs and manufacturing renewed caution about the strength of the economy.

The Energy Information Administration reported the country is using less energy than last year, which also hurt prices. Broader economic indicators provided more evidence that a pickup in demand might not occur anytime soon.

The Labor Department's weekly unemployment report and the Philadelphia Federal Reserve's manufacturing index both disappointed traders, providing fresh concerns that a recovery will be slow and bumpy.

Workers filing for unemployment benefits for the first time rose by 36,000 last week to 482,000. Economists polled by Thomson Reuters were expecting a small drop.

The Philly Fed's manufacturing index dropped to 15.2 from a revised 22.5 last month. New orders, a sign of future activity, declined from the previous month.

Benchmark crude for March delivery fell $1.66 to settle at $76.08 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Oil was hovering near its lowest prices in a month.

In other Nymex trading in February contracts, heating oil fell 3.55 cents to $1.9856 a gallon, while gasoline dropped 6.36 cents to $1.9829 a gallon.

Gold for February delivery fell $9.40 to settle at $1,103.20 an ounce, while silver for March delivery dropped 37 cents to $17.51 an ounce.

Brad Samples, a commodity analyst at Summit Energy Inc. said the market could see more volatility after President Barack Obama laid out plans to overhaul financial regulation. Obama is pushing for new rules that would restrict banks from using money gathered from deposits to trade stocks and bonds as well as limit the overall size of banks.

If big banks like JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America were forced to separate or reduce their market trading businesses, it would cut out a large portion of liquidity for commodities and derivatives markets, Samples said.

"When you threaten to cut out the biggest market makers, by definition it will increase volatility," Samples said.

Elsewhere, grains rose modestly. Wheat for March delivery rose 2 cents to settle at $4.995 a bushel. Soybeans rose 4 cents to $9.54 a bushel, while corn also rose 4 cents to $3.72 a bushel.