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The Independent Online
Coffee prices rose 14.5 per cent last week, close to a two-and- a-half-year high, after a strike at Brazil's largest port spread to all the country's ports on Friday. Dockworkers are protesting against the hiring of non-union employees. The threat of a Brazilian export halt comes at a time of lean US supplies of coffee. Brazil is the world's largest coffee producer. Coffee prices are up 85 per cent since the start of the year.

n Increased demand from Japan for pork bellies at a time when US stockpiles are hovering at a near 10-year low saw prices for May delivery rise 9.1 per cent last week to hit their highest price ever in Chicago. Japanese imports from the US could account for half of the country's total imports this year, analysts said. Japan continues to ban Taiwanese pork imports despite Taiwan lifting its own export ban imposed after the highly contagious foot-and-mouth disease was discovered on more than 1,000 pig farms there.

n Gold lost its lustre last week when futures prices in New York tumbled 1.9 per cent, close to a four-year low as signs of subdued inflation, steady economic growth and prospects for higher interest rates eroded investor demand. Concern persists that US interest rates will rise further in the near future, boosting returns from assets which compete with gold.

n LUMBER prices fell 2.7 per cent as the US Commerce Department said construction starts of new housing fell 6.4 per cent in March, prompting speculation that builders may not need as much lumber as previously thought. Permits for new housing, an indicator of futures demand, also fell 1.5 per cent in March, the Commerce Department said. Copyright: IOS & Bloomberg