Posted: Friday, May 04, 2012 1:11 PM
By SANDY SHORE
Commodities prices were mixed Friday after the government said U.S. hiring slowed in April, adding to evidence of sluggish growth in the world's largest economy.
Prices for oil, copper, palladium and wheat fell. Gold, silver, platinum, corn and soybeans rose.
The Labor Department said U.S. employers added just 115,000 jobs in April, the second straight month of slower job creation. That compared with an average of 252,000 jobs created per month from December through February. The unemployment rate dipped to 8.1 percent from 8.2 percent in March, but only because more people gave up looking for work.
Meanwhile, weekend elections are scheduled in France and Greece. A change in leadership in France could alter how Europe responds to its government debt crisis. Greece recently restructured its debt load, so its elections also are being closely watched.
Investors are worries about the global economy slowing down and what that would do to demand for basic materials. The U.S. economy is growing, but slowly. Europe is still struggling with its debt crisis and the pace of growth in China has slowed.
"It's a synchronized global slowdown," said INTL FCStone analyst Edward Meir.
Oil prices dropped below $100 per barrel for the first time since February, creating some hope that overall energy prices would fall. That could benefit consumers, manufacturers and other businesses. Benchmark oil fell $4.05 to finish at $98.49 per barrel on the Mercantile Exchange.
Heating oil declined 7.81 cents to end at $3.0088 per gallon, gasoline futures fell 7.42 cents to $2.9758 per gallon and natural gas ended down 6.1 cents at $2.279 per 1,000 cubic feet.
Metals were mixed. Investors bought gold because it is considered a relatively stable asset in uncertain times. Copper prices dropped slightly because of the prospect of declining demand due to slower growth.
Gold for June delivery rose $10.40 to end at $1,645.20 an ounce. May silver increased 42.1 cents to finish at $30.38 per ounce, May copper fell 0.95 cent to $3.724 per pound, July platinum rose $2.90 to $1,536 per ounce and June palladium fell $9.20 to $652.15 per ounce.
In other trading, wheat prices fell to the lowest level in four months on expectations for a bumper crop in the United States.
Jason Ward, analyst with Northstar Commodity in Minneapolis, said U.S. supplies remain ample but the global supplies are at a record high.
Wheat for July delivery fell 6 cents to finish at $6.095 per bushel, the lowest level since mid-January. July corn rose 5.75 cents to $6.2025 per bushel and soybeans ended up 4.75 cents at $14.7825 per bushel.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.