PRINTABLE VERSION   EMAIL TO A FRIEND   RSS FEEDS 19:49 GMT, Wednesday, 7th Nov 2012, by Agrimoney.com
Evening markets: wheat defies markets' post-election tumble

That was quick.

The, mild, honeymoon period that financial markets allowed to Barack Obama after he gained a second term in office lasted but a matter of hours before attention turned to the problems he faces as he returns from the campaign trail to the day job.

Chief of these is the so-called "fiscal cliff" in the US, and the prospect of measures to balance the US budget being held up by bickering in Congress.

European shares, after a firm start, closed sharply lower, down 1.6% in London and 2.0% in Frankfurt and Paris.

Stocks stood 2.0% down in late deals in New York.

Meanwhile, the safe haven of the dollar rebounded to post 0.2% gains, fuelling a decline in commodities, which being largely dollar-denominated and exports become less appealing to buyers in other currencies as the greenback appreciates.

The average commodity, as measured by the CRB commodities index, dropped 2.0% as of 19:30 UK time (14:30 New York time, 13:30 Chicago time).

Prices rise

Against that background, it took something special to post gains. And wheat turned out to have it.

OK, it was relatively easy in Europe, where contracts denominated in euros (or sterling) could exploit their growing competitiveness over supplies denominated in strengthening dollars.

Furthermore, there is a particular boost to nhe region from waning Black Sea supplies.

"Because EU wheat in particular should profit when shipments from [the Black Sea] dry up as they presumably soon will prices especially on this side of the Atlantic are picking up," Commerzbank said.

"EU wheat exports are already looking good, even if the high volumes recorded in the 2010-11 season, when the EU profited from the explicit export ban imposed by Russia, are still a long way off."

Paris wheat for November closed up 0.6% at E276.00 a tonne, while London's best-traded May 2013 lot added 0.7% to £226.35 a tonne both contract highs.

 'Clear sense of direction'

But US lots managed even stronger gains, rising dollar or not.

The catalyst was the continuing concern over supply issues, for 2012-13 with the prospects of disappointing results from ongoing Argentine and Australian harvests, and for 2013-14, with setbacks to winter wheat in parts of Europe and the former Soviet Union, besides the US.

"The wheat market now looks to have a clear sense of direction and could grind higher, with poor winter wheat crop condition in the US and delayed French and UK plantings providing a supportive backdrop," Rory Deverell at FCStone's Dublin office said.

In the US, US Commodities flagged that "the US plains will have limited rain the next 10 days.

"It now appears about one-third of the winter wheat will go into dormancy in a dry drought status."

'Crops likely to be further cut'

Meanwhile, "the wheat crops in Australia and Argentina are likely to be cut further due to wetness in Argentina and dry conditions in Australia", US Commodities added.

The weather forecast in Argentina is wetter this weekend, implying further moisture for already-sodden ground.

And in Australia, Mr Deverell said that "the Australian farmer now heading deeper into harvest final get the rain they craved, but at the wrong time causing harvest delays and difficulties".

Indeed, the east coast is due rains of 30mm-100mm, starting on Thursday.

'Starting to assume lower protein'

The Australian conditions, and reports of crop protein levels falling short of expectations, are beginning to have an impact on local wheat prices, Brett Cooper, at FCStone's Sydney office, noted.

"The market is starting to assume lower protein across much of the crop," he said.

"Protein premiums are widening, with 13.0% protein 'prime hard' wheat, relative to standard APW Australian premium wheat 10.5% protein, rallying $17 a tonne since the harvest got under way".

In areas where the wheat harvest not yet underway, "low protein in harvested barley crops seen as a bad omen".

'Too green to be at risk'

The "good news is that at least half the crop is too green to be at risk" from the next bout of rains, "particularly in southern New South Wales where forecast is wettest", Mr Cooper added.

Still, Chicago December wheat was up 1.7% at $8.92 a bushel in late deals.

Kansas hard red winter wheat for December was 1.2% higher at $9.30 a bushel, while Minneapolis spring wheat for December was 0.8% up at $9.56 a bushel.

Twin pressures

That was far better than soybeans could manage, falling 0.6% to $15.08 a bushel in late deals for November, and by 0.6% to $15.06 a bushel for the best-traded January lot, which briefly dropped back below $15.00 a bushel.

"The soybean market is trading lower after a recovery yesterday with larger US production and agreeable weather for South American production pressuring the market," Benson Quinn Commodities said.

This was a reference first to expectations of a rise in the US Department of Agriculture estimate for domestic soybean production on Friday, when it unveils its latest benchmark Wasde crop report.

The second reference is to ideas of improving weather in Brazil, if not Argentina. Dry northerly areas of Brazil are receiving rain, and wet southern areas getting relief from precipitation.

Demand questions

And corn, continuing its recent trend, stood in between its fellow grain and its fellow row crop, edging 0.2% higher to $7.42 a bushel for the December contract.

The Wasde is expected to be more supportive for prices of the grain, in coming up with a small drop to the estimate for this year's US harvest.

And dynamics for US exports picking up after a dismal start to 2012-13 are improving too.

US Commodities said: "South American corn is now at $300 a tonne versus the US Gulf at $315a tonne. South America this morning has no offers past December."

However, demand is nonetheless, with questions how long a recovery in US ethanol production will last, up 2,000 barrels a day to 827,000 barrels a day in the latest week, official data on Wednesday showed.

Australia & New Zealand Bank, while bullish over corn prices for the first half of 2013, was cautious for now, citing compromised demand prospects.

Easier supplies?

Among soft commodities, raw sugar for March slumped 3.2% to 18.95 cents a pound, only 2012's fourth close for a spot contract below 19 cents a pound.

The sweetener was sunk by ideas that a forthcoming report from Unica, the cane industry group, will show continued strong sugar production in Brazil's Centre South region, besides being depressed by the broader market malaise and Commonwealth Bank of Australia forecasts of weak values to come.

New York cocoa for March dropped 2.7% to $2,399 a tonne on ideas of selling by Ghana, the second-ranked producing country, and with the lot's technical appeal lessened by a fall below its 100-day moving average.

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