LONDON  - Commodity prices diverged this week, with New York oil striking an October-peak and gold futures hitting five-month lows as markets tracked positive US economic data including Friday’s jobs numbers.

The US jobless rate fell to seven per cent in November, a five-year low, official data showed, raising the odds that the Federal Reserve could soon cut its huge stimulus programme.

The sharp drop in the rate, from 7.3 per cent in October, was unexpected, and came as the economy generated a solid 203,000 jobs.

The jobs growth was spread over the manufacturing, retail trade, health and professional service sectors, and suggested that US industry continues to gain confidence despite the continuing battles over the budget and spending cuts in Washington, that many economists have feared would slow hiring.

And analysts said the strength of the Labor Department report could give the Fed more reason to begin cutting back its $85 billion a month bond-buying programme, aimed at boosting economic growth.

OIL: Crude future rose Friday but also earlier in the week as the US government reported an unexpected weekly drop in US crude oil inventories, the first decline since mid-September.

“The series of good data releases may hint (at) greater appetite for oil by the US as demand will be boosted by increasing economic activities,” said Tan Chee Tat, an investment analyst at Phillip Futures in Singapore.

US prices won support also on the announcement that part of the Keystone pipeline in the United States would open in January, bringing oil from Cushing, Oklahoma, to Texas refineries along the Gulf of Mexico.

European benchmark Brent retained broad support over concerns of a supply disruption in the North Sea.

A deadly fierce storm battered northern Europe with hurricane winds on Thursday, while British authorities had to evacuate 15,000 homes on the North Sea coast.

The market this week also reacted to OPEC’s decision on oil output.

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, which pumps out one third of the world’s crude, agreed to hold its crude production ceiling at 30 million barrels per day despite oversupply concerns and competition from cheaper shale oil.

By Friday on London’s Intercontinental Exchange, Brent North Sea crude for delivery in January climbed to $111.20 a barrel from $110.93 a week earlier.

On the New York Mercantile Exchange, West Texas Intermediate or light sweet crude for January rallied to $97.43 a barrel from $93.58.

Metals mixed in wake of US job figures

PRECIOUS METALS: Gold, seen as a hedge against inflation, tumbled to $1,210.60 an ounce—the lowest level in five months—in the wake of Friday’s strong US jobs data, before recovering.

Expectations of a quick move to scale back US stimulus lowered concerns over possible higher inflation, traders said. By late Friday on the London Bullion Market, the price of gold dropped to $1,233 an ounce from $1,253 a week earlier.

Silver slipped to $19.49 an ounce from $19.93.

On the London Platinum and Palladium Market, platinum slipped to $1,367 an ounce from $1,376.

Palladium jumped to $741 an ounce from $724.

BASE METALS: Industrial metals rose across the board.

“Base metals surpluses are shrinking and leading manufacturing indicators are signalling consumption will continue to strengthen,” said Barclays analyst Gayle Berry.

Elsewhere, the US Commerce Department on Friday reported that consumer spending picked up pace in October, despite a dip in income.

A day earlier, the Commerce Department reported the US economy had expanded by 3.6 per cent in the third quarter, far above the 3.0 per cent many analysts had forecast.

By Friday on the London Metal Exchange, copper for delivery in three months rose to $7,138 a tonne from $7,068 a week earlier.

Three-month aluminium gained to $1,772 a tonne from $1,763.

Three-month lead climbed to $2,097 a tonne from $2,086.

Three-month tin grew to $23,150 a tonne from $22,760.

Three-month nickel advanced to $13,840 a tonne from $13,501.

Three-month zinc increased to $1,908 a tonne from $1,883.

Cocoa highs melt away

COCOA: Prices ended lower after reaching fresh two-year high points at the start of the week owing to tight supplies of the raw material that is used mostly to make chocolate.

By Friday on LIFFE, London’s futures exchange, cocoa for delivery in March fell to £1,736 a tonne from £1,750 a week earlier.

On ICE Futures US, cocoa for March slipped to $2,774 a tonne from $2,789 a week earlier.

COFFEE: Futures were mixed in New York and London.

“Although Vietnamese exporters are currently exercising restraint, which is shoring up (Robusta-quality coffee) prices and causing stocks on the LIFFE exchange in London to decline, this is unlikely to remain the case for long given what looks like being a record harvest,” said analysts at Commerzbank.

By Friday on the ICE Futures US exchange in New York, Arabica for delivery in March fell to 107 US cents a pound from 108.20 cents a week earlier.

On LIFFE, Robusta for January grew to $1,700 a tonne from $1,614 a week earlier.

SUGAR: Prices fell further on expectations of a sizeable surplus.

By Friday on the ICE Futures US exchange, the price of unrefined sugar for delivery in March dropped to 16.83 US cents a pound from 17.23 cents a week earlier.

On LIFFE, the price of a tonne of white sugar for March dipped to $454.20 from $459.80 a week earlier.

GRAINS AND SOYA: Soya, maize and wheat prices all dropped.

By Friday on the Chicago Board of Trade, January-dated soyabean meal—used in animal feed—fell to $13.20 a bushel from $13.36 a week earlier.

Maize for delivery in March rose to $4.33 a bushel from $4.24.

Wheat for March slid to $6.51 a bushel from $6.68.

RUBBER: Prices rose on positive economic data from China, the world’s biggest buyer of rubber, and owing to supply delays caused by mass protests in Bangkok, traders said.

The Malaysian Rubber Board’s benchmark SMR20 climbed to 230.75 US cents a kilo from 230.15 cents the previous week.