The Associated Press

Commodities traders struggled for direction Tuesday, leaving prices for metals and agriculture futures mixed.

Copper rose the most among metals. Copper for May delivery rose 1.3 percent, or 4.65 cents, to $3.6725 per pound.

Gold and silver also rose. June gold climbed $11.20, or 0.7 percent, to $1,643.80 per ounce. May silver rose 0.7 percent, or 21.5 cents, to $30.746 per ounce.

Platinum and palladium fell. July platinum fell $8.20 to $1,548.10 per ounce. June palladium fell $5.10 to $665.80 per ounce.

The dollar, which fell against the euro, also may have played a role. A weaker dollar tends to lead to concerns about inflation, which encourages investors to put their money into commodities.

Darin Newsom, senior analyst at DTN in Omaha, guessed that some traders are shuffling their positions before the end of month, either getting out of commodities where they've already made money for the month or getting into new commodities if they've lost out so far.

"There wasn't a consistent theme today," Newsom said. "It looks more like a day of positioning."

Agricultural commodities were also mixed. Wheat held steady at $6.325 per bushel. Corn fell 4.5 cents to $6.08 per bushel. Soybeans rose 24 cents to $14.65 per bushel. Some investors are predicting that the soybean supply could tighten by the end of the year while the corn supply will expand, so investors may already be trading on those longer-term predictions, Newsom said.

Energy prices were also mixed. Crude oil futures prices ended higher on the New York Mercantile Exchange, rising 44 cents to $103.55 a barrel. Brent crude, which is used to price international crude, fell by 55 cents to $118.16 per barrel in London.

The average price for a gallon of gas in the U.S. was $3.85, compared to $3.86 a year ago. That's the first time in two years that the price of gas is cheaper compared with a year earlier. Gas is getting cheaper because crude oil prices are lower and refineries, which turn crude into gasoline and other products, are getting back up to speed. Americans are also finding ways to cut down on driving, which trims demand.

Gasoline futures prices gave up 2.8 cents to finish at $3.1593 per gallon, heating oil gave up 1.03 cents to finish at $3.1295 per gallon, and natural gas futures declined by 3.2 cents to end at $1.975 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

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