Platinum future prices surged a second straight day Tuesday at the New York Mercantile Exchange as a "whiff of inflation" and uneasiness about South Africa rippled through the markets.
Platinum broke through a barrier at $510 an ounce, climbing $7.70 to $8.30 higher, with the contract for March delivery settling at $510.40.
On other markets, petroleum futures prices finished mostly higher in volatile trading; wheat and soybean futures prices were higher, but corn slipped slightly, and livestock and meat futures prices were higher across the board.
"Platinum is a good indicator of inflationary sentiment, because it's a precious metal and an industrial metal," said Jack Barbanel, analyst with Gruntal & Co. in New York. "It's a hedge, but it's also affected by fundamentals.
"Some of (Tuesday's) rise is the whiff of inflation some traders are picking up on. But you can discount $3 or $4 of the $7 (advance) to South Africa. We're beginning to see some political unrest and that makes people nervous."
South Africa provides nearly all of the West's platinum, which has industrial applications as varied as X-ray scanning equipment and catalytic converters for autos.
A nationwide strike Monday marking the 28th anniversary of the Sharpeville Massacre was honored by as many as 90% of the workers in the Indian Ocean city of Port Elizabeth. Protests were held elsewhere despite increasingly tough government measures.
Gold did not join the run-up, finishing 50 cents to $1.60 cents lower, with March at $448.70 an ounce on the New York Commodity Exchange. Silver was 1.5 cents to 1.8 cents higher, with March at $6.465 an ounce.
Petroleum futures finished mixed after another volatile day on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
West Texas Intermediate crude oil was 40 cents lower to 11 cents higher, with April at $16.09 per 42-gallon barrel; heating oil closed 0.75 cent higher at 46.15 cents a gallon, and unleaded gasoline, which increased 0.12 cent on Monday, gained 0.21 cent to 46.32 cents a gallon.
After Tuesday's close of business, the American Petroleum Institute's weekly distillate report was generally construed as slightly bearish for crude.
Soybeans Get a Push
Support for wheat and soybeans at the Chicago Board of Trade came soon after the open when Monday's big player, C&D Commodities, began buying again.
C&D's buying didn't match Monday's levels--the Chicago-based house bought 20 million bushels of beans the previous day, compared to just 4 million Tuesday. But it did help trigger buying that pushed the November contract for soybeans up 7 cents to equal a contract high at $6.66 a bushel.
Wheat settled 1.50 cents to 3.50 cents higher, with the contract for delivery in March at $2.99 a bushel; corn was 0.50 cent to 1 cent lower, with March at $2.005 a bushel; oats were 2.50 cent lower to 5 cents higher, with March at $1.955 a bushel, and soybeans were 2 cents to 8.25 cents higher, with March at $6.32 a bushel.
A strong move toward frozen pork bellies helped the livestock and pork complexes advance at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.
Live cattle settled 0.20 cent to 0.73 cent higher, with April at 74.25 cents a pound; feeder cattle was 0.25 cent to 0.50 cent higher, with March at at 82.35 cents a pound; live hogs were 0.05 cent to 1.38 cents higher, with April at 46.57 cents a pound, and frozen pork bellies were 0.23 cent to 1.45 cents higher, with March at 55.45 cents a pound.
Stock index futures climbed on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.
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