SARA LEPRO

Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) -- Orange juice was the star commodity Friday, outshining gold, which slumped after three days of hitting record highs.

November orange juice futures surged 10.1 percent, adding 10 cents to settle at $1.0865 a pound after the U.S. Department of Agriculture forecast a big drop in this season's orange crop.

The USDA on Friday put the overall U.S. orange crop at 8.25 million tons, down 10 percent from last season. In Florida, the nation's largest producer, the crop is expected to be down 16 percent from last season due to below-average rainfall and freezing temperatures earlier this year.

Among other soft commodities, November soybeans jumped 28 cents, or 3 percent, to $9.64 a bushel on the Chicago Board of Trade despite the USDA's projections for a bigger-than-expected crop this year.

Darin Newsom, a senior analyst at DTN in Omaha, Neb., said the jump was likely due to bad weather forecasts that could threaten the soybean crop.

December wheat futures lost 6 cents to $4.68 a bushel, while corn for December delivery slid 1.75 cents to $3.6225 a bushel.

Gold prices fell as the dollar reversed recent losses and moved higher against other major currencies after Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke signaled that the U.S. central bank was prepared to wind down its stimulus measures when needed.

Some investors interpreted his comments as a sign the Fed might raise interest rates sooner rather than later, which would support the dollar. Gold benefits from a weak dollar because it is used as a hedge against inflation.

The December gold contract fell $7.70 to $1,048.60 an ounce on the New York Mercantile Exchange, after setting new record highs three days in a row this week. Gold finished the week up 4.4 percent.

Gold has been on a tear in recent weeks as the dollar weakens amid fears of emerging inflation. The pop in the dollar Friday gave investors a chance to take some profits, but analysts say gold could still move higher in the near term.

Other metals also fell Friday. December silver dropped 12.5 cents to $17.69 an ounce, while October platinum lost $14.40 to $1,331.60 an ounce.

December copper futures fell 6.05 cents to $2.8380 a pound.

Oil prices were little moved, adding 8 cents to $71.77 a barrel on the Nymex. Crude finished the week up 2.6 percent.

Heating oil rose by less than a penny to $1.8528 and gasoline fell by 1.17 cents to settle at $1.7680 a gallon.

Natural gas for November delivery lost 19.3 cents to settle at $4.77 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Copyright 2009 The AP.

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