Energy prices have mixed performance ahead of the inventory report by the US Energy Department. WTI crude for February delivery, while hovering below 82, remains firm. However, fuels such as heating oil and gasoline have shown signs of fatigue after rallying for 2 weeks. Moreover, stock builds as estimated by API reduced their appeals.

Concerning precious metals, gold obviously underperforms others in the complex as it's more dependent of USD's movement and less affected by expansion and contraction in industrial activities. The February contract for the yellow metal rises +0.05% to 1125.3 in European session after closing flat Tuesday while silver surges for the 4th day, by +0.9%, to 17.98. The benchmark contract reached a 1-month high at 18.04 earlier today.

PGMs extends rally after breaking 2009 highs. Platinum surges to 1554.4 while palladium rises to 425.7. Strong US auto data boosted prices. Sales in light vehicles increased +2.9% to 11.25M units in December from the prior month. On annual basis, sales growth accelerated to +8.8% from +5.5% in November. The 4th consecutive monthly rise suggests auto sales are one step closer to pre-crisis level. Excluding periods of the 'cash for clunker' program, auto sales were below 11M units for most of the time after the collapse of Lehman Brother.

Analysts in the industry believe the supply side problem in South Africa due power shortages and labor actions will put upward pressure to prices as demand of PGMs increases in 2010. Last year, such problem was not that obvious as it was masked by the financial crisis and tumble in auto demand even caused oversupply in the metals. It's likely for PGMs to outperform gold in coming months.

On the macro side, ADP probably showed -75K decline in employment in December, following a massive -169K drop in the prior month. ISM non-manufacturing is expected to have risen to 50.5 in December. The gauge unexpectedly fell back to contraction territory in November after 2 months' expansion. The Fed will also publish the minutes for December's FOMC meeting.

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