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Platinum, palladium drop on emerging market woes

Steve Rothwell, AP Markets Writer

NEW YORK (AP) -- Platinum and palladium slumped Friday as investors fretted about the prospects for growth in emerging markets.

Both metals, which are used to make catalytic converters for autos, tend to track the outlook for growth in emerging economies such as China and Latin America. A downturn in emerging markets began Thursday following signs that manufacturing was contracting in China, a major importer of raw materials and a key driver of global economic growth.

"For platinum and palladium, more than half of the demand is (for use) in automobiles," said Howard Wen, a precious metals analyst at HSBC Securities. "So, global growth has an influence on these metals, obviously."

The price of platinum for delivery in April fell $34.60, or 2.4 percent, to $1,428.60 an ounce. Palladium for March dropped $11.10, or 1.5 percent, to $734.80 an ounce.

In other metals trading, Gold rose for a fifth straight week. The metal closed up $2, or 0.2 percent, at $1,264.30 an ounce Friday. Gold has climbed as the dollar has weakened.

Copper for March delivery fell 1.4 cents, or 0.4 percent, to $3.27 per pound. Silver for the same month fell 24 cents, or 1.2 percent, to $19.77 an ounce.

In energy trading, natural gas prices climbed to their highest in level in three and a half years as the frigid winter stoked record demand for heat and electricity.

The price of gas for delivery in February climbed 45.20 cents, or 9.6 percent, to $5.1820 per 1,000 cubic feet.

In other energy trading, the price of U.S. crude for March delivery fell 68 cents to $96.64 a barrel. Wholesale gasoline was unchanged from Thursday at $2.67 a gallon. Heating oil rose 2.48 cents to $3.02 a gallon.

In agricultural products trading, March wheat fell 4.75 cents, or 0.8 percent, to $5.65 a bushel. Corn for the same month rose 0.5 cents, or 0.1 percent, to $4.30 a bushel. Soybeans for March rose 7.75 cents, or 0.6 percent, to $12.85.