PRINTABLE VERSION   EMAIL TO A FRIEND   RSS FEEDS 20:55 GMT, Monday, 24th Jul 2017, by Mike Verdin
Grains ease with US heat fears. 'Overbought' coffee tumbles

Heat-tested US crops have stopped getting worse, condition wise.

At least, so investors seem to believe, after broader-than-forecast weekend rains for the Midwest, and expectations of cooler temperatures ahead.

And with that, went any chance of prices getting stronger on Monday.

Indeed, at no point did Chicago corn, wheat or soybean futures post gains, although contracts did at least manages to pare losses by the close.

'Easing concerns'

CHS Hedging flagged "easing concerns over weather after weekend rains hit parts of northern Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois and the eastern one-third of the Dakotas".

Meanwhile, "the latest weather model has average-to-below-average temperatures settling over the Corn Belt".

MDA flagged a "wetter" turn in forecasts for Iowa on Wednesday and Illinois on Thursday.

"Dryness remains a concern across south western Midwest areas, but showers this week may lead to some improvements."

'Bulls thwarted'

In fact, Darrell Holaday at Country Futures underlined the outstanding dryness worries too, saying that "we believe that there are still a large number of dry areas in the western Corn Belt".

Still, at RJ O'Brien, Richard Feltes said that "pessimistic US corn and soybean yield forecasts are sidelined for now in the aftermath of mid-July rains, a reversion to normal late July temperatures and a downsizing to 15% the growing area labouring under moisture stress.

"Bulls are no longer able to make a strong case for a sub-160 bushels per acre corn yield, and a sub-46 bushels per acre soybean yield.

"We cannot be confident on the final size of the US corn and soybean crops, but we can be confident that further deterioration has abated into month end."

'Demand is a concern'

Still, December corn futures, in ending down 0.8% at $3.90 a bushel, at least managed to close above their day low of $3.84 a bushel, and indeed settled too above their 100-day and 200-day moving averages.

Sentiment was helped somewhat by, besides residual dryness fears, some positive export news, with the US Department of Agriculture reporting the sale of 135,000 tonnes of US corn for delivery to an "unknown" importer for 2017-18 delivery.

US export data for last week were less upbeat, at 935,262 tonnes - not a bad figure, but down from 1.12m tonnes the week before, and 1.32m tonnes the same week last year.

"Demand is a concern, with weak cash basis values being a sign of slow export demand for US grains after the recent rally in futures," said Benson Quinn Commodities.

'Less heat stress'

For soybeans, the US actually exported 596,920 tonnes last week, up nearly 300,000 tonnes week on week, although behind the 720,573 tonnes a year before.

Still, soybeans futures for November eased by 1.2% to $10.10 a bushel, although again ending well above an earlier low of $9.98 a bushel.

CHS Hedging flagged the "forecast that calls for less heat stress for the soybean crop going into August", a key month for the US crop, in bringing pod-setting.

'Thwarted further deterioration'

Wheat, meanwhile, ended down 2.1% in Chicago at $4.88 a bushel for September delivery, weighed by weakness in spring wheat, which has been the complex's leader, besides softness in row crop peers.

Minneapolis spring wheat for September fell by 2.0% to $7.50 a bushel, amid some idea of weekend rains wreaking some improvement to northern Plains crops.

RJ O'Brien's Richard Feltes flagged a "view that recent Dakota rains have thwarted further deterioration of row crops and small grains".

Furthermore, commercial buyers "are flush with cash hard red spring wheat supplies, thus meaning no need for a tightening of basis or [futures] spreads.

"Minneapolis what led the rally on the way up, has ample room to erode short term."

Furthermore, Mr Feltes noted a risk that a much-watched crop tour of US spring wheat will not prove "as pessimistic on the US spring wheat crop's size as private sector trade".

Coffee cools

Also weighing on grain prices was concern over the extent of hedge fund long bets with worries that the extent of them means extra potential selling pressure.

By contrast, there are ideas that short bets in soft commodities have become excessive, potentially signalling short-covering and upward pressure on values.

Still, that was not the case on Monday when arabica coffee futures plunged 2.9% to 132.55 cents a pound for September delivery, retreating from a two-month high hit in the last session.

The decline was attributed largely to technical factors, with Sucden flagging earlier that with relative strength index and stochastics indicators "overbought we could see some weakness" in prices.

'Seen the price low of the year'

Raw sugar for October closed unchanged at 14.40 cents a pound, despite some more upbeat comment on the market, after Patrobras raised Brazilian gasoline prices, boosting prospects for ethanol values, and so meaning sugar has to compete harder for its share of cane.

The Petrobras move, coupled with a tax on gasoline, lift the ethanol parity level (ie where mills have equal financial incentive to turn cane into ethanol or sugar) "from sub-13 cents a pound to well over 13 cents a pound" in sugar terms, said Sucden Financial.

Flagging "some indications that perhaps it's not all going the sugar bears way", Sucden added that "it seems we probably have seen the low of the year" for sugar prices.

Still, on a more negative note for values, data from China, the top importer, showed that its buy-ins last month tumbled 62% to 139,519 tonnes.

Growth in imports for the first half of 2017 was curtailed to 5.9%, with total volumes for the six months of 1.41m tonnes.

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