Base metals advance on China’s economic strategy (AP)

Silver and industrial metal prices advanced Monday after Chinese leaders agreed to leave interest rates intact and said they supported balanced economic growth.

That gave traders hope that China would continue to import large quantities of raw materials including metals used for industrial production, oil and soybeans.

Silver jumped 3.6 percent because of its dual benefits. It has the reputation as a safer asset to hold as a hedge against inflation and it also is used in the manufacture of consumer electronics, batteries and water purification equipment.

Most commodities followed silver higher as the dollar grew weaker, which gave traders who use foreign currencies more buying power since commodities are priced in dollars.

CPM Group analyst Carlos Sanchez said traders also are awaiting key economic data due this week that could provide some clarity about U.S. economic growth, including a statement from the Federal Reserve, business inventories, the Consumer Price Index, housing data and leading indicators.

Heading into last weekend, many analysts and traders had expected China to announce an interest rate hike to curb inflation, which reached a 28-month high of 5.1 percent in November. But the leaders opted to work to curb inflation and keep growth on track without raising interest rates.

In addition, China’s latest base metals production data reflected “strong underlying demand as production ramps up,” Barclays Capital analysts stated in a research note.

In metals contracts for March delivery, silver rose $1.019 to settle at $29.624 an ounce; palladium gained $19.75 to $752.45 an ounce and copper added 9.45 cents to $4.1995 a pound. January platinum rose $22 to $1,697.30 an ounce and February gold settled up $13.10 at $1,398 an ounce.

In energy trading, oil bounced back after OPEC left production quotas unchanged during a weekend meeting. Even though that was expected, oil traders were glad to have it confirmed. “The market is focusing … on the lack of desire to add more oil to quash higher prices,” JPMorgan analysts wrote in a note to investors.

Benchmark oil for January delivery added 82 cents to settle at $88.61 on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

In other Nymex trading in January contracts, heating oil added 0.77 cent to settle at $2.4652 a gallon, gasoline edged up 0.91 cent to settle at $2.3184 a gallon and natural gas gained 0.3 cent to $4.420 per 1,000 cubic feet.

In agricultural contracts, March wheat gained 4.75 cents to settle at $7.8025 a bushel, March corn added 14.25 cents to $5.8850 a bushel and January soybeans jumped 29.50 cents to $13.0250 a bushel.

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