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Commodity prices improve on economic optimism

Sandy Shore, AP Business Writer

Most commodity prices rose slightly Tuesday after successful debt auctions by Spain and a string of solid U.S. corporate earnings

Investors considered the potential that demand for commodities would increase if the economy improved. Prices for industrial metals, gold, oil and soybeans rose. Natural gas plummeted 3.2 percent. Wheat and corn also fell.

Spain raised more money than anticipated in two short-term bond auctions, which eased concerns about Europe's financial crisis. Spain has drawn attention recently because of questions about its government's ability to implement austerity measures.

In the U.S., Coca-Cola, Johnson & Johnson and Goldman Sachs posted strong first-quarter results.

"I think that's taking a lot of the pressure off," Kingsview Financial analyst Matt Zeman said. "The wild card is Europe. This auction may have gone better than people expected, but there's going to be a lot more auctions."

Separately, the International Monetary Fund said it is more optimistic about the global economy after seeing faster growth in the United States and a combined effort in Europe to resolve the region's debt crisis. The global lending organization expects the world economy to grow 3.5 percent this year.

Gold for June delivery rose $1.40 to finish at $1,651.10 per ounce and May silver increased 30.1 cents to $31.674 an ounce.

In other trading, industrial metals rose after investors shrugged off a disappointing report on U.S. industrial production. The Federal Reserve said that overall industrial production was flat in March. Manufacturing, which represents the largest segment of industrial production, fell 0.2 percent last month.

Copper for May delivery rose 1.9 cents to end at $3.647 per pound, July platinum increased $8.90 to $1,584.70 an ounce and June palladium ended up $11.25 at $661.95 per ounce.

In May contracts, wheat fell 0.75 cent to end at $6.155 per bushel, corn decreased 6.5 cents to $6.1675 per bushel and soybeans rose 5.75 cents to $14.2575 per bushel.

Benchmark oil rose $1.27 to finish at $104.20 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Heating oil increased 1 cent to $3.1266 per gallon, gasoline futures fell 3.3 cents to $3.234 per gallon.

Natural gas continued to be pressured by weak demand and bulging supplies. The price fell 6.5 cents to finish at $1.951 per 1,000 cubic feet.