By The Associated Press
Commodities futures ended mostly mixed Wednesday with the exception of palladium, which surged 3 percent, breaking a four-day slump.
The March contract for palladium, a metal which has industrial uses including making catalytic converters for automobiles, jumped $20.35 to settle at $688.20 per ounce.
Most other metals fell. Gold for February delivery fell $6.70 to $1,655.50 an ounce. March silver lost 21.60 cents to $30.249 an ounce and copper inched down 0.15 cent to $3.6705 a pound. April platinum rose $16.80 to $1,600 an ounce.
Edward Meir, senior commodities analyst at the New York-based commodity brokerage INTL FCStone, said metals trading has been "listless" since the Federal Reserve disclosed last week that there was dissent at its December policy meeting over how long to continue a bond purchasing program.
The program is intended to keep interest rates low and encourage borrowing by replacing bonds with cash in the financial system. Were the Fed to curtail its program sooner than expected, it could lead to higher U.S. interest rates and a stronger dollar.
That would diminish the appeal of precious metals, which investors like to hold as an alternative to the dollar, if they feel that the U.S. currency could be weakened.
"The markets are waiting for (Fed Chairman Ben) Bernanke, the next time he speaks, to clarify how much dissent there is on the asset purchase side," Meir said.
March agricultural contracts ended mixed. Wheat fell 5 cents to settle at $7.455 a bushel. Corn rose 5.5 cents to $6.9425 a bushel and soybeans fell 1 cent to $13.855 a bushel.
Energy prices were also a mixed bag. Crude oil edged lower, giving up 5 cents to settle at $93.10 a barrel. Wholesale gasoline fell 1.55 cents to finish at $2.7789 a gallon. Heating oil rose 1.14 cents to end at $3.0699 a gallon. Natural gas fell 10.5 cents to $3.113 per 1,000 cubic feet.