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Evening markets: soy dips, eroding record premium to canola

No sooner had highlighted the record canola discount to soybeans than the gap took a beating.

Canola closed in Winnipeg on Thursday at a discount of $135 a tonne to soybeans, compared with the premium it normally has with 10-year average of $38 a tonne, according to Commonwealth Bank of Australia.

That shrank as canola for March rebounded by 1.1% from a three-year closing low to end at Can$398.20 a tonne.

Crushings squeezed

Was the rapeseed variant helped by ideas that warmer (ie less brutally cold) weather will ease the logistical squeeze which has hampered exports, besides delivery to domestic processing plants?

Certainly, data from the Canadian Oilseed Processors Association showed the impact that the cold weather has been having, with domestic canola crushings down 5.2% at 3.64m tonnes this season, up to February 12, a decline blamed on logistical setbacks.

And this besides a record domestic crop last season, and huge stocks, of 12.6m tonnes, in the country as of the end of 2013, up 55% year on year.

Technical influences

Still, it was signal that trading volumes for the March collapsed on Friday, by two-thirds from the 22,000 lots in the last session, which helped lift the total for Winnipeg canola trading to a record 71,536 contracts.

Did this mark a peak of selling pressure, a capitulation, and a storm ahead of the sunshine?

It also received a helping hand from Paris rapeseed, which for May delivery added 1.3% to E378.25 a tonne, taking its gains this year nearly to 4% in local currency terms, contrasting with the 9.5% decline in canola.

As a technical fillip, May rapeseed closed above its 200-day moving average for the first time in more than a year.

'Aggressively reduce demand'

By contrast, soybeans had a downbeat day.

Bulls had some reason for cheer, with the day failing to bring Chinese cancellations of orders of US soybeans, write-offs that investors have long expected as South American harvests ramp up, and which have been anticipated as easing pressure on the tight US balance sheet.

"Despite the seasonal shift from US to South American origins, the lack of cancellations of US outstanding contracts has generated concerns that the market needs to aggressively reduce demand," broker Jefferies Bache said.

"The balance sheet is tight with ending stocks forecast at 150m bushels, which is considered as pipeline supplies with little room to go lower."


At RJ O'Brien, Richard Feltes highlighted "fear that the US has overcommitted tight US soy supplies", besides "concern that Argentina's contribution to global soy complex exports will fall short of normal - even after harvest".

Argentine growers are holding crops as a, dollar-denominated, hedge against a falling peso, although there has been talk of a pick-up in deliveries by farmers to exporters this week.

As an extra worry, there are "concerns that recent weather stress on the South American crop could reduce production", Jefferies Bache said, if adding that "much of the crop in the hardest hit areas is close to maturity, limiting the amount of damage that could develop".

On cue, Agroconsult, citing drought, cut its forecast for the Brazilian soybean crop, but by a modest 800,000 tonnes to a still-large 90.8m tonnes, a little above this week's US Department of Agriculture forecast of 90.0m tonnes.

Soymeal factor

Indeed, ideas of Brazil's crop have not suffered too much yet.

But the real blow to Chicago soybeans was the retreat in soymeal, which has proven notably strong, with the March lot setting a fresh contract high of $458.10 a short ton earlier.

"The story in the soybeans continues to be the cash soymeal values that are extremely strong in the Midwest," Darrell Holaday at Country Futures said.

"Reports yesterday afternoon of cash soybean trading at $5.10-5.20 per ton, $0.70 over the Chicago price, and end users found themselves short and needed to get coverage before March 1."

'Overbought conditions'

CHS Hedging said: "Export demand for soybeans has tightened domestic supply for soymeal, the most important protein source to farm animals.

"The tight supply has driven the March soybean contract to prices not seen since mid-September."

However, as Benson Quinn Commodities noted earlier, "both soybeans and soymeal are approaching overbought conditions.

"Firm trade late in the session could attract some profit-taking ahead of the long weekend," with US markets closed on Monday for the President's Day holiday.

Soymeal for March ended down 0.4% at $450.00 a short tonne, while soybeans for March eased 0.5% to $13.37 a bushel.

'Feels like spread trading'

That contrasted with corn, which at last showed a bit of volatility, and upwards, ending 1.1% higher at a four-month closing high of $4.45 a bushel for March delivery.

Again, the contract ventured lower only to shy away from its 100-day moving average, which has come to present quite a floor to downward movement.

But is there more to corn's opposite movement to soybeans than meets the eye?

"It really feels like spread trading as much as anything as the break in soybeans prompted some liquidation in [long] soybean/ [short] corn spreads," Mr Holaday said.

'Still seems to be demand'

The grain is also being helped by demand ideas, after strong US weekly export sales data on Thursday, and decent US ethanol production too.

"Despite a strong recovery from prior lows, there still seems to be demand near the current levels," Benson Quinn Commodities said.

Ideas for South American corn crops are coming under a little pressure too, with the Buenos Aires Grains Exchange forecasting Argentina's corn crop at 23.5m tonnes, below Monday's USDA estimate of 24.0m tonnes.

'Friendly tone on exports'

Corn actually managed to close a little its discount to wheat, which has been widening this week, amid resilient US wheat exports and fears over damage from cold to US winter grain seedlings.

"There continues to be a friendly tone in the export scene and some concern about winter wheat condition," Mr Holaday said.

 And on the technical front, Chicago's March contract regained $6.00 a bushel on Friday, if only temporarily, peaking at $6.03 a bushel, the highest in more than a month, before easing back.

The contract closed at 5.98 a bushel, still enough to win some technical brownie points in ending above its 50-day moving average for the first time since October.

"The wheat markets are finding support from technical considerations," Benson Quinn Commodities said.

India estimate

Still, that was up a modest 0.5% on the day.

"The overall fundamental picture in wheat isn't as supportive as it is in soybeans, but domestic basis levels remain firm," Benson Quinn said. (Not that soybeans did so well on the day, of course.)

That said India did a bit to help by pegging its crop at 95.6m tonnes, up 3.1m tonnes year on year and a record high, but below ideas of 100m tonnes which have been floating around.

In Europe, Paris wheat for March outperformed, managing a 1.0% gain to E198.50 a tonne, while London wheat for May closed 0.8% higher at £154.25 a tonne, recovering at last from Wednesday's data showing surprisingly strong UK imports.

Mixed softs

Among soft commodities, raw sugar eased a further 0.2% to 15.63 cents a pound in New York for March delivery, with some talk of relatively little damage to Brazil production prospects from dry weather.

But arabica coffee managed a 0.2% rise to 142.30 cents a pound for May delivery, with ideas of crop losses here more substantial, as highlighted by Olam International which forecast Brazil managing coffee production of 50m-51m bags this year, below initial hopes for 57m-60m bags.

The real strengthened a touch against the dollar too, lifting the value in greenback terms of agricultural commodities of which Brazil is a major producer.

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