Commodities hold steady on China factory expansion data

Written by fe Bureau | New Delhi | Updated: Dec 15 2012, 07:07am hrs
Major commodities held steady on Friday after data showed China's manufacturing sector expanded in December, offsetting concerns about the euro zone's deteriorating economy and a budget crisis in the US.

The HSBC flash purchasing managers' index for December rose to 50.9 for China, a 14-month high and the fifth straight monthly gain, with gains in areas such as new orders and employment.

A figure above 50 suggests growth is accelerating, while one below 50 shows a contraction. This underlines an improving economic outlook for the world's top metal and second-largest energy consumer.

However, dismal data about Germany's manufacturing sector eclipsed a marginal pick-up in the wider euro zone purchasing manager index, showed the data that polls polls around 5,000 businesses across Europe. Moreover, the stalemate over how to avert the US "fiscal cliff" of sharp tax hikes and spending cuts, which will kick in early next year, kept investors cautious despite the fourth round of quantitative easing by the Federal Reserve on Wednesday, and capped gains.

Brent crude headed for the first weekly gain this month. The January contract rose 59 cents to $108.50 a barrel intraday, while US crude rose 69 cents to $86.58, on course to its fifth weekly gain in six weeks.

Similarly, three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange traded at $8,065 a tonne intraday, compared with the previous session's close of $8,074. The metal hit a two-month high on Wednesday, and is up more than 6% so far in 2012.

Spot gold was flat at $1,696.61 an ounce intraday, after a nearly 1% fall on Thursday. Prices were on course for a 0.5% weekly drop, thanks to losses earlier in the week. US gold futures, too, remained almost flat at $1,698.10 in intraday trade on Friday.

The Fed announced more bond buying earlier this week, but raised concerns about the scope of the measure by linking its monetary policy to unemployment.