PRINTABLE VERSION   EMAIL TO A FRIEND   RSS FEEDS 21:02 GMT, Friday, 25th Jan 2013, by Agrimoney.com
Evening markets: poor US export sales undermine corn, again

Corn futures have developed something of a reputation of late for last-minute revivals.

As Darrell Holaday, at Country Futures, noted, "the tendency recently has been for the corn market to struggle much of the day and then rally into the close".

This pattern "is generally a sign of commercials looking for price breaks to gain some coverage".

So could they extend that trend on Friday?

Data disappointment 

In a word, no.

Chicago's benchmark March corn contract ended at $7.20 a bushel, down 0.5% on the day, and only 3 cents or so above its intraday low.

(Signally, it was also back below its 10-day and 50-day moving averages, not a good omen for hte next session.)

The killer was weekly US export sales data which, yet again, showed corn disappointing investors, with a figure of 190,000 tonnes, old crop and new, well below the 250,000 tonnes or so expected.

"Weekly corn sales continue to argue that US offers are too expensive - which is an easy argument to win as global origination points have corn and feed wheat offered at cheaper and/or competitive prices," said Benson Quinn Commodities.

Richard Feltes at RJ O'Brien said: "Poor corn export sales reinforce the view that current prices are cutting use appreciably", implying that higher values are not needed to ration supplies.

Indeed, it added to the rationing apparent in ethanol production too, with Poet late on revealing that it is to close a Missouri plant, the latest in a series of temporary shutdowns estimated by some to have mothballed 20% of US capacity.

Wheat sales rise

In fact, there was something of a "last will be first" theme about the market, with wheat, which has been the butt of short wheat, long corn/soybean spreads, outperforming its fellow grain, and rebuilding something of a premium.

Chicago's March wheat contract closed 1.0% higher at $7.76 a bushel.

But then, the grain's weekly US export sales data were considerably more encouraging, in coming in above 650,000 tonnes, well above expectations.

"Global demand for wheat continues to pop up, which should allow the US to continue the current pace of exports," Benson Quinn said, if adding that "more demand is going to be needed to begin to cut into ample supplies".

Furthermore, fears over the drought in US hard red winter wheat country failed to get reassurance from weather forecasts, with US Wheat Associates flagging that some (yet-to-be-sown) hard red spring wheat country looked in danger too.

History repeats itself?

In New York, the "last will be first theme" saw cotton slide 2.9% to 80.52 cents a pound for March delivery, the first decline in eight sessions.

"The market showed a lot of signs of turning in the last session," when it ended well below its intraday, six-month high, Keith Brown at broker Keith Brown & Co said.

Eerily, the contract also peaked one day past the January 23 date at which the March 2012 lot topped last year.

"Markets can be quite repetitive," Mr Brown said, noting a trend of patterns to reap themselves three times.

Not that this necessarily represented the end of the current rally, he added, if flagging the reversal of buy old crop, sell new crop spreads which on Friday saw the December lot lose only 0.03 cents, to end at 79.70 cents a pound.

Coffee recovers

Meanwhile, New York arabica coffee for March rebounded to close 1.2% higher at 148.30 cents a pound.

Commerzbank flagged forecasts from Conab that Brazil will harvest 47m-50.2m bags of coffee overall this year, above a previous record for a low-yield year of 43.5m bags.

"What is more, Conab officials are confident that improved cultivation methods and the planting of new higher-yield coffee shrubs will erode the differences between high- and low-yield years," the bank said.

However, reports that many coffee plantations in Central America are under attack by the roya fungus "should put paid to any further price slid", with the region accounting for 13% of total coffee, output and 20% of arabica production.

Honduras, region's biggest coffee producer, this week cut its harvest estimate by 13.6% to 4.9m bags.

'Marching toward a crop'

Back in Chicago, soybeans for March also recovered, after two negative closes, to end up 0.4% at $14.41 a bushel.

The oilseed was helped by US weekly export sales of nearly 1m tonnes, old crop and new, marginally ahead of forecasts, which allowed it to benefit more than corn from continued South American wheat uncertainty.

"There is a system moving through Argentina tonight. That has capped rallies, but the outlook generally looks warm and dry over the next two weeks," Darrell Holaday said.

"February is going to be a critical month as the soil moisture has been depleted and the key reproductive stages have started and will stretch through the next month."

US Commodities said: "The weather in South America remains borderline threatening, but we are marching toward a crop each day."

The market is also marching towards an expected squeeze on Brazilian logistics which may mean vessels queuing for 45 days to load with soybeans, improving the appeal of US supplies.

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