By CHRISTOPHER LEONARD
Orange juice futures surged Monday as fears grew that Florida's crop would suffer storm damage.
Orange juice for November delivery jumped 9.3 cents to settle at $1.5970 a pound. Prices were already climbing after Brazil announced last week that a dry growing season would cut its harvest from an expected 286 million 90-pound boxes of oranges to 272 million, said Carlos Sanchez, an analyst with CPM Group in New York.
Florida's orange crop is already at its lowest level in decades, after storm damage and an unusual freeze reduced the harvest to about 136 million boxes, Sanchez said. While Florida's harvest is expected to rebound, traders seemed worried Monday that storms forming off the Florida coast could damage orange groves this fall.
Sanchez said oranges for November delivery could hit $1.70 a pound if they close above $1.60 for more than a couple of days in a row.
Grain prices sank after an afternoon rally, with corn and soybeans both closing down.
Corn for December delivery fell 3 cents, or less than 1 percent, to settle at $5.0525 a bushel. Soybean prices fell 4.5 cents to settle at $10.80 a bushel. Soybeans have risen along with corn prices over the last few weeks, with corn hitting its highest levels since 2008.
While prices were falling Tuesday, traders still seem anxious that heavy rains in the central U.S., combined with hot weather, might hurt yields and deliver a smaller crop than analysts expected, said Greg Wagner, an independent commodities analyst in Chicago.
"This (corn) was planted at a record pace," Wagner said, stoking expectations this spring of a near-record crop. Now traders are trying to gauge just how much smaller the corn harvest will be.
In other trading, December wheat contracts fell 13.75 cents to $7.18 a bushel.
Gold for December delivery fell $6.50 to $1,274.3 an ounce. Some analysts believe the price could top $1,300 an ounce.
In other December metals contracts, silver fell 16.3 cents to $20.640 an ounce and copper fell 2.35 cents a pound to settle at $3.4810 a pound.
September platinum lost $19.60 to $1,612.40 a pound while September palladium fell $11.70 to $527.80.
Oil prices fell on Tuesday as traders worried whether demand for energy products will strengthen as the economy continues to struggle.
Benchmark crude oil lost $1.34 to settle at $73.52 a barrel on the last trading day for the October contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Many traders moved to the November contract, where the price fell $1.22 to settle at $74.97 a barrel.
In other Nymex trading in October energy contracts, heating oil fell 1.95 cents to settle at $2.1199 a gallon, gasoline lost 3 cents to settle at $1.9196 a gallon and natural gas gained 9.7 cents to settle at $3.919 per 1,000 cubic feet.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.