Metals Shine In Record-Breaking 2006

Nickel increased 160% while zinc increased 130%.

Metals were the star performers among commodities in 2006, enjoying price gains of between 20% 160%, while becoming a fixture in the portfolios of investors. "Many were surprised by the size of the rise given that they had already risen so strongly in the previous three years," said Michael Davies, an analyst at the Sucden brokerage firm.

The two best performers in 2006 were the base metals nickel and zinc. The price of nickel soared about 160% to a record high of $34,500 per ton and zinc rocketed around 130% to an all-time peak of $4,580 dollars per ton.

Copper surged past $8,000 while aluminum hit $3,000 per ton and in doing so reached historic heights. There were record highs also for lead and tin.

Propelling base metals higher was a combination of vigorous demand by investment funds amid robust economic growth in China, as well as output disruptions caused by miners' strikes and delays to the operation of new infrastructure.

In addition, global stockpiles of these metals fell to their lowest levels on record.

"The strong growth we expect in China should help keep prices at elevated levels next year," UBS analyst Joachim Klement said. "On the supply side, we expect overall shortages to improve from the 2005-06 levels, but inventory levels should stay very low."

Regarding precious metals, gold struck $730 per ounce in May -- the highest level for more than 26 years, amid heavy buying by central banks and private investors.

The price of silver meanwhile soared 60% to reach $15.22 per ounce -- the highest point since 1980. The metal owed its climb to the launch of silver tracker-fund on the U.S. stock market.

Rumors of a similar fund for platinum sent the white metal to an historic high of $1,402.50 per ounce in November.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2006

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