It was hardly a triumphant performance by grain and oilseed
But they at least gave some impression of having escaped the
worst of their liquidation pressures for now.
futures even put in a second successive day of gains, adding 0.5% to $6.88 ¾ a
bushel for March delivery, a gain made more impressive by the 0.2% drop in
commodities as a whole, sapped by a more cautious tone in markets as a whole.
This was evident in a 0.3% rise in the safe haven of the dollar, and weaker share markets, with
Wall Street stocks down 0.4% in late deals. (Strong results helped Monsanto
buck that trend. Its shares hit a four-year high.)
Data and more data
Whether the calm can last, of course, is a different matter,
given the barrage of data that awaits in the last days of the week.
Wednesday brings official data on Brazilian crops, against a
background of growing expectations for the harvests, and for those in
neighbouring Argentina too.
"The weather pattern in South America remains favourable for
the development of the soybean crop and the first corn crop in Brazil," Benson
Quinn Commodities said.
Agroconsult pegged the Brazilian soybean crop at 83m tonnes,
above the current official Brazilian estimate, from the Conab crop bureau, of 82.6m
RJ O'Brien sees it even higher, at 84-84.5m tonnes.
Thursday will witness statistics on Malaysian palm oil, with implications for the
market in rival soyoil, and thus for soybeans, while Friday sees the main event
– an annual January slew of US Department of Agriculture data.
These include fresh estimates for domestic and world 2012-13
crop supply and demand, of which the US corn and soybean harvest estimates are
seen likely to take centre stage, besides data on American grain stocks and winter wheat
"It appears the trader's willingness to establish additional
risk has been limited by both a lack of fresh news and the impending USDA
reports," Benson Quinn said.
At Allendale, Paul Georgy put a different spin on the
uncertainty ahead of data, saying "many traders are looking for these reports
to be over so the market can trade the real issues - demand, new crop prospects
and fund interest in rebuilding long positions".
'More efficient on
And there was some news on these issues, such as fresh talk
of Chinese soybean buying.
"China was rumoured to have purchased a cargo of soybeans
off the US Pacific North West," broker US Commodities said, noting that American
ports were "more efficient on loadings" than those in some rival exporting
"It can be up to a 20-day delay in loadings in Brazil."
OK, not all demand news is going the way of the US, with South
Korea's Major Feedmill Group buying 137,000 tonnes of corn largely from South
America, and the Korea Feed Association purchasing 110,000 tonnes of corn all
deemed likely of South American origin.
Nonetheless, domestically, "basis levels in corn and
soybeans remain firm as cash grain movement is slow," Benson Quinn noted.
Meanwhile, on the US wheat
front "the GFS model turned drier overnight for the hard red winter wheat area
for the mid-week rains", Darrell Holaday at Country Futures said, meaning less
relief for drought-hit seedlings.
"There is some indication that severe cold could be moving
into the hard red winter areas in two weeks," he added, although questioning whether
temperatures yet looked like being low enough to cause much damage.
Chinese wheat puzzle
And, thinking of winterkill, a bigger potential support for
wheat prices is emerging in China, where rising wheat prices are gaining market
"Chinese wheat prices continue to move to new highs and that
has puzzled the wheat market," Mr Holaday said.
"There is some concern about winterkill in Chinese winter
wheat, but that is true every year.
"The fact that the price is climbing is making some
speculate that Chinese supplies are tighter than the market believes."
Such talk follows reports that the Chinese wheat harvest
last year may have been some 10m tonnes lower than government estimates, hurt
Nonetheless, according to Mr Holaday, "the reality is that
the Chinese government has paid farmers a guaranteed return of 10% for storing
wheat. That is keeping wheat off the market".
Still, all this is coming against the background of index
fund rebalancing, expected to see large sales of Chicago wheat as funds rejig
portfolio weights back to those stated by the index they follow.
(This process, which implies selling 2012's top performers
and buying laggards, started on Monday, according to Morgan Stanley, but many US
crop brokers are quoting the close today as the start time.)
"The rebalance has offered resistance to Chicago wheat,
which is expected to be sold, and support to soymeal," Benson Quinn said.
Wheat for March actually factored in all these competing
factors by ending down 0.1% at $7.50 ½ a bushel, with soymeal for March doing better at running to script in closing up 0.5%
at $410.90 a short ton.
themselves for March ended down 0.1% at $13.86 ½ a bushel.
Indeed, for volatility, New York was a more accommodating
venue, seeing arabica coffee for
March drop 1.5% to 148.15 cents a pound, after losses of more than 3% earlier.
The decline was seen as down to a complication relating to the
rebalancing process (in which index funds are seen as big buyers of arabica coffee)
and defied further talk of dryness affecting the early development of the crop
in Minas Gerais, Brazil's top producing state.
New York cocoa
for March ended down 2.3% at $2,215 a tonne, the lowest since July, hurt by some
improvement in deliveries of beans to Ivory Coast ports.
Arrivals so far in 2012-13, which started in October, had
reached some 696,000 tonnes by Sunday, down 6% year on year, but an improvement
on decline above 10% earlier in the season.
"With a weak demand performance, cocoa prices may still be
stuck in range until demand starts to lift," Lynette Tan at Phillip Futures