By Barani Krishnan
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Oil surged on Tuesday, with benchmark Brent crude hitting six-month highs, and gold rallied in safe-haven buying as the West mulled a military strike on Syria after U.S. accusations the country used chemical weapons on civilians.
Copper prices fell slightly as signs of stabilization in China, a major importer of the metal, were offset by worries over the potential tapering of the U.S. stimulus program.
Corn and soybean futures slipped as forecasts for wetter-than-expected weather in U.S. Midwest crop areas prompted profit-taking on gains made in the two previous sessions. Raw sugar was weighed down by increased cane crushing in top grower Brazil, and arabica coffee neared a four-year low.
The 19-commodity Thomson Reuters-Jefferies CRB index settled up 0.6 percent as higher oil, gasoline and precious metals prices outweighed losses in grains and other crops.
Brent crude gained more than 3 percent, its biggest advance since October, following reports that Western officials told the Syrian opposition to expect a strike against President Bashar al-Assad’s forces within days, according to sources who attended a meeting between envoys and the Syrian National Coalition in Istanbul.
“As the rhetoric ratchets up around Syria, the geopolitical risk premium in the price of oil is once again widening,” Dominick Chirichella of Energy Management Institute said.
Brent crude settled up $3.63 at $114.36 a barrel, after an earlier high of $114.42.
U.S. crude rose $3.09 to settle at $109.01 a barrel, after earlier hitting $109.32.
Gold touched its highest price in more than three months as investors looked for safe havens ahead of the potential strike on Syria and other geopolitical tensions.
The spot price of gold was up nearly 1 percent, surpassing $1,415 by 4:35 p.m. EDT (2035 GMT). Earlier it hit $1,423.41, its highest since May 15.
U.S. gold futures for December delivery settled up $27.10 at $1,420.20 an ounce. Trading volume was at 156,000 lots, about 20 percent below its 30-day average, preliminary Reuters data showed.
(Editing by Jim Marshall)