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n Coffee prices rose almost 16 per cent this week and are up 54 per cent so far this year. Supply shortages resulting from reduced crops in Central and South America are blamed. Output from Colombia, the world's second-largest grower, fell 63 per cent in January compared with a year earlier. The problems have been aggravated by a strike in Colombia, which is disrupting shipments.

n Silver has bucked a trend which means that precious metals are usually weak during periods of dollar strength. The price of silver rose 6.1 per cent this week as stockpiles fell to their lowest levels since 1986. Analysts do not think that increased demand from jewellery manufacturers or industrial users is the problem. Some suggested that traders were trying to boost futures prices by creating the impression of a shortage.

n Natural Gas fell almost 7 per cent on the week, following declines in the price of heating oil as inventories of heating fuels appeared adequate for the rest of what has been a mild winter in the US. Natural gas has slumped by 27 per cent since the start of the year and heating oil has fallen by 17 per cent.

n Zinc rose $32 to $1,222 a ton, a two-year high, as world stockpiles kept falling. Stockpiles in London have fallen 6 per cent since the start of the year, while demand in the car industry for galvanized steel, one of the main uses of refined zinc, is soaring. The price of zinc was $1,062 a ton at the beginning of January. Copyright: IOS & Bloomberg