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Unrest in the Ukraine and a mining strike in South Africa push palladium prices up

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Platinum and palladium prices are rising as a dispute between Russia and Ukraine along with a strike in South Africa push prices up.

Palladium for June delivery gained $16.30, or 2 percent, to settle at $802.30 an ounce. Platinum for July rose $5.70 to $1,409.60 an ounce. Russia and South Africa produce roughly 80 percent of the world's palladium.

Prices for the metals dropped earlier in the week on reports that mining companies in South Africa were close to an agreement with miners to end a three-month strike. But reports out Thursday said the two sides reportedly failed to reach an agreement.

"There's not a quick end to the strike," said George Gero, vice president of global futures RBC Capital Markets in New York. "So you have this double threat of Russia and South Africa at the same time."

In Ukraine, the country's military killed several pro-Russian insurgents, and Russian officials said they would hold new military exercises along the Ukrainian border. President Barack Obama, while visiting Tokyo on Thursday, warned Moscow that the U.S. has another round of economic sanctions "teed up."

Other metals also rose. Gold gained for a second day running, up an even $6 to $1,290.60 an ounce. Silver rose 25 cents to $19.69 an ounce. Copper climbed 6 cents to $3.12 a pound.

In other trading, agricultural contracts were mixed. Wheat and soybean prices rose while corn prices slipped.

Wheat rose 14 cents to $6.97 a bushel and soybeans crept up 5 cents to $14.70 a bushel. Corn dropped 2 cents to $5.07 a bushel.

In the market for oil and gas contracts, benchmark U.S. crude for June delivery rose 50 cents to $101.94 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

In other energy futures trading in New York:

— Wholesale gasoline was flat at $3.09 a gallon.

— Heating oil rose 3 cents to $3.01 a gallon.

— Natural gas fell 2.5 cents to $4.705 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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