The last trading day of the week often provokes a bit of
profit-taking, as investors bank gains ahead of the weekend.
There seemed to be a bit of that around on Friday.
futures for May ended up 0.05 cents at 169.50 cents a pound in New York, but
that was 5 cents below the intraday high.
'Notable dryness will
Still, why not take a few gains on a 19% jump this week
alone – even if the Brazilian dryness at the heart of the rally is showing no
signs of ending soon.
While largely row crop-growing states such as Goias, Parana
and Mato Grosso do Sul will receive rains next week, "notable dryness will
persist in eastern Sao Paulo, Minas Gerais and Bahia", weather service MDA
Sao Paulo is the top sugar cane growing state, and Minas
Gerais the most important coffee producing state.
'Shorts still to be
Raw sugar actually
did gain from the weather, managing a higher close, up 2.4% at 16.72 cent a pound
for March delivery, and 2.3% higher at 17.07 cents a pound for May, both two-month closing highs.
But then fund gains, and the profit-taking it might bring,
are not such as issue with raw sugar, in which speculators had a hefty net
short position as of Tuesday last week.
Many of these positions are expected to have been closed since, but "we still
believe there are shorts still to be covered", Nick Penney at Sucden Financial
Technically, the best-traded May contract gained an extra
fillip too by touching, and closing over, its 100-day moving average for the
first time since November.
This after retaking its 50-day and 75-day moving averages
during the week, which it has finished up 6.7%.
Still, the International Sugar Organization and Rabobank followed Macquarie in flagging caution over expectations of long-term price gains.
But in Chicago, grains proved less able to hang on to gains,
with wheat closing down 1.1% at
$6.09 ¾ a bushel for March delivery, and by 1.3% to $6.05 ½ a bushel for May.
The May lot is still up 8.5% for February so far.
Weekly US export sales for the grain were better than many
traders expected, at 424,500 tonnes old crop, if, as the US Department of Agriculture
said, "down 29% from the previous week and from the prior four-week average".
'Snow cover should build'
However, some of the concerns over next week's forecast cold
snap are easing, allowing the removal of a bit of risk premium.
While this week's warmer temperatures have melted snow on
the central Plains and into the Midwest, "snow cover should build across the north
central Plains and north central Midwest again through early next week, as
colder temperatures return", MDA said.
Although snow cover will "remain limited" in some central
areas, "winterkill threats on wheat in exposed areas will remain low".
Paris wheat for May eased 0.3% to E195.75 a tonne, dragged
lower by its Chicago peer, despite a small deterioration in the condition of French
wheat as of Monday, by one point to still promising 74% rated "good" or "excellent".
'Relief to short
wheat a little, closing down 0.6% at $4.53 a bushel for March delivery, and by 0.7%
to $4.59 a bushel for May.
Weekly US corn export sales data were disappointing, at 691,400
tonnes old crop, "down 46% from the previous week and 50% from the prior four-week
average", the USDA said.
And signs of Ukraine political accord undermined price
support from ideas of buyers turning to the US for corn, rather than to the
troubled former Soviet Union state.
CHS Hedging said: "The latest peace agreement in Ukraine has
loosened concerns, giving relief to short traders."
Still, the grain received a bit of a fillip from the first formal USDA estimates for US corn production, use and stocks in 2014-15, which pencilled in carryout
inventories, at 2.11bn bushels, not as big as figures some brokers have
But is the USDA using an unrealistically low estimate for
Many brokers believe so, with Darrell Holaday at Country
Futures among them, saying that "in my mind the acreage numbers are friendly,
but I don't believe they are reality".
There are questions as to why the USDA believes combined
sowings of corn, soybean and wheat will be lower than last year, when 2013 had
such a poor planting season, meaning stacks of land was abandoned.
Dog doesn't bark
The doubts are even stronger over soybeans, for which the USDA's estimate for plantings of 79.5m
acres is 3m acres below some trade estimates.
However, the oilseed received support from US export sales
Not that the figure of 86,300 tonnes of cold crop was great
in itself. In fact it was a 2013-14 low.
But the key factor was that it did not show large
cancellations by China of orders of US soybeans, in favour of lower-priced
Brazilian supplies now that a bumper harvest there looks in the bag.
'Crush margins have
"Soybean sales for old crop were a marketing year low but
still positive," Benson Quinn Commodities said.
Positive is enough given that the US has, less than half way
through 2013-14, already shipped or sold more soybeans than the USDA has
predicted for the whole season.
Mr Holaday said: "The US soybean market does not need any
more sales in the current crop year."
He added that appeared that Chinese buyers were, instead of
cancelling orders from the US, "generally trying to defer contracts for spring
shipment out of Brazil to late summer and early fall".
Chinese soybean processors' "crush margins have fallen apart
in the last 45 days as their market is overwhelmed with imported soybeans".