Commodities markets summary

A summary of trading in key commodities markets overseas:

ENERGY

Oil prices have surged after Saudi Arabian jets struck rebel targets in Yemen, sparking fears that an escalating crisis in the country could threaten crude producers in the Middle East.

US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for May delivery soared $US2.22, or 4.5 per cent, to close at $US51.43 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, its highest level in more than three weeks.

In London, Brent North Sea crude for delivery in May, the global benchmark, jumped $US2.71 to $US59.19 a barrel.

The contracts began rallying on Wednesday following news that Yemen's President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi was rushed to a "secure location" after a warplane attacked his presidential complex.

PRECIOUS METALS

Gold has pared gains after hitting a three-and-a-half-week high, after a knee-jerk reaction to escalating tensions in the Middle East knocked stocks and drove investors into lower-risk assets.

Spot gold reached a peak of $US1,219.40 an ounce, before retreating to trade up 0.6 per cent at $US1,195.25 at 2:47 pm EDT (0547 Friday AEDT). US gold for April delivery settled up $US7.80 an ounce at $US1,204.80.

Silver prices outperformed gold, rising 2.7 per cent in early trade, but pared gains to be up 0.5 per cent at $US16.93 an ounce.

Platinum was up 0.1 per cent at $US1,146.40 an ounce, while palladium rose one per cent to $US762.65 an ounce.

BASE METALS

Copper has hit its highest in nearly three months after mines closed in the world's top producer Chile due to flooding and oil rallied on military strikes in Yemen.

In early trade, a weaker US dollar also helped to boost base metals on the London Metal Exchange as lead touched the highest in almost two months and zinc hit a one-month peak.

But gains were pared back in the European afternoon as the US dollar rebounded. A stronger dollar erodes commodities priced in the US currency by undermining the purchasing power of buyers paying with other currencies.

Three-month LME copper closed up 0.8 per cent at $US6,174 a tonne after small losses in the previous session. Prices earlier hit their highest since January 2 at $US6,294.50.

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