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Consumer Confidence Gauge Weighs on Market

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A waning consumer confidence (61.1 in January, down from a reading of 64.8 in December by the Conference Board) and Chicago PMI (60.2, well below expectations of 62.8 and last month's 62.5) were the catalysts Tuesday prompting a sell-off in commodities and the broader markets. Both had started the morning on a positive note and then abruptly reversed course on the news. The dollar, on the other hand, gained strength as investors favored it while shunning the Euro.

Light, sweet crude for March delivery on the NYMEX settled 0.3 percent, or 30 cents, down at $98.48 per barrel. Brent crude was also victim to a strengthening dollar that reversed its rally mid-stream and erased nearly $3 from its high water mark of the day. However, Brent settled 0.2 percent higher, or 23 cents, to $110.98 a barrel for its March contract.

Natural gas was the big loser on the day. Call it a delayed reaction to yesterday's news from the EIA that production in the US topped 72 billion cubic feet during November. March contracts for natural gas fell 7.7 percent, or 21 cents, to settle at $2.503 per MMBtu.

Among refined products, March reformulated gasoline blendstock continued its ascent. RBOB gained 2 cents to $2.89 per gallon. Tuesday was the final day for the February contract to trade, it also closed higher on the day.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

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