By The Associated Press
Key commodities struggled for direction Tuesday, pulled in opposite directions by the uncertainty caused by the Cyprus bailout and by optimistic signs that the U.S. economy is improving.
Precious metals and some key industrial metals fell Tuesday, while energy commodities were up and crops were mixed.
"We are seeing a very mixed tone in the various markets," analysts from RBC Capital Markets wrote in a note to clients.
The bailout deal reached this week for Cyprus, the cash-strapped Mediterranean island country, has had less than a calming effect on investors. For many, the stop-gap measure has served only to remind them of how deep Europe's debt problems are.
Hints that the U.S. economy could be improving also weren't enough to squash lingering fears about the long-term state of the economy, at least not in metals trading.
The Commerce Department said that orders for factory-produced durable goods rose more than expected in February. Home prices also rose in January, according to the Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller 20-city price index.
Copper for May delivery slipped 0.25 cent to $3.4425 per pound. July platinum lost more than 1 percent, down $17.10 to $1,569.80 per ounce. June gold dropped $9.20 to $1,597.30 per ounce. May silver lost 13.6 cents to $28.679 per ounce. June palladium was the exception, rising $4.05 to $761.40 per ounce.
Energy commodities were up. Benchmark crude for May delivery gained $1.53 to a five-week high of $96.34 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price many kinds of oil imported by U.S. refineries, rose $1.19 to $109.36 per barrel in London.
Wholesale gasoline rose 5 cents to $3.11 a gallon. Heating oil added less than a cent to $2.88 a gallon. Natural gas advanced by 11 cents to $3.98 per 1,000 cubic feet.
Key agricultural commodities were mixed. Wheat rose 4.25 cents to $7.315 per bushel. Soybeans rose 10.5 cents to $14.4775 per bushel. Corn fell 3 cents to $7.3025 per bushel.