Cocoa futures prices tumbled Wednesday after reports that producer nations had called an emergency meeting to discuss price-support measures proved to be unfounded.
On other markets, copper futures prices hit a nearly eight-year high while gold and silver retreated, soybeans surged while grain futures were mixed, livestock and meat futures advanced, energy futures were mostly higher, and stock index futures rose.
Cocoa gained in early trading on New York's Coffee, Sugar and Cocoa Exchange on rumors that the International Cocoa Organization would move its scheduled Feb. 29 meeting up to Jan. 11 to discuss a resumption of buffer-stock buying, a price-support measure that removes surplus cocoa from the market.
But cocoa futures plummeted after a report at mid-morning that the group had made no such decision, said Debra Tropp, an analyst in New York with Prudential-Bache Securities Inc.
Copper Contracts Soar
"Renewed buffer-stock operations . . . could take some surplus from the market," she said. "But with the threat of that meeting seemingly reduced, the trade thought they had the flexibility to sell the market."
The contract for March delivery of cocoa settled $62 lower at $1,772 a metric ton.
In metals trading, copper for December delivery soared 5.1 cents on New York's Commodity Exchange, setting a new contract high of $1.36 a pound. Prices had not been that high since February, 1980, said Steve Chronowitz, director of futures research for Smith Barney, Harris Upham & Co. in New York.
Fueling the surge were the same fundamentals that have caused copper prices to more than double since May, Chronowitz said.
"There just aren't any immediate supplies available," he said. "Everybody is stepping over each other to obtain what they can for prompt delivery."
Analysts expect copper prices to ease by March as higher prices bring increases in production and supply.
Gold and silver declined slightly in light trading at the Comex.
Gold settled $1 to $1.70 lower, with the December contract at $482.90 an ounce. Silver was 7.8 cents to 8.5 cents lower, with the December contract at $6.73 an ounce.
Reports that the Soviet Union had bought vegetable oil on world markets sparked a rally in soybean oil futures, which led other soybean contracts to a higher close on the Chicago Board of Trade.
"It was really an oil-led rally," said Dale Gustafson, an analyst in Chicago for Drexel Burnham Lambert Inc.
Soybean oil futures gained as much as 52 cents per hundredweight, boosting soybeans as much as 8.5 cents a bushel.
Wheat Closes Mixed
Corn futures finished nearly unchanged in light pre-holiday trading.
Wheat was mixed to higher on indications of increased export business, Gustafson said.
Wheat settled 0.75 cent lower to 2 cents higher, with the March contract at $3.1875 a bushel; corn was 0.25 cent lower to 0.75 cent higher, with March at $1.8975 a bushel; oats were 1 cent to 2.5 cents lower, with March at $1.9125 a bushel, and soybeans were 4 cents to 8.5 cents higher, with January at $6.075 a bushel.
Livestock and meat futures rallied in thin trading on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. Many traders evened up their sell positions before the long Christmas weekend, analysts said.
Some traders also may have bought contracts in anticipation of increased demand for beef and pork after the holidays, said Philip Stanley, an analyst in Chicago with Thomson-McKinnon Securities Inc.
Live cattle settled 0.12 cent to .43 cent higher, with the February contract at 60.75 cents a pound; feeder cattle were 0.35 cent to 0.47 cent higher, with January at 73.92 cents a pound; live hogs were 0.15 cent to 0.57 cent higher, with February at 41.22 cents a pound, and frozen pork bellies were 0.12 cent to 0.40 cent higher, with February at 50.25 cents a pound.
Crude oil futures ended the session higher on the New York Mercantile Exchange, but prices fell below the day's highs as traders took profits ahead of the holiday break, analysts said.
West Texas Intermediate crude oil settled 3 cents to 28 cents higher, with the February contract at $16.64 a barrel; heating oil was 0.42 cent lower to 0.46 cent higher, with January at 51.55 cents a gallon, and unleaded gasoline was 0.37 cent lower to 1.05 cent higher, with January at 43.79 cents a gallon.
Stock index futures advanced on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange as the dollar rebound in U.S. trading. The contract for March delivery of the Standard & Poor's 500 index settled 2.85 points higher at 254.70. The underlying spot index closed at 253.18 points.
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