PRINTABLE VERSION   EMAIL TO A FRIEND   RSS FEEDS 09:51 GMT, Tuesday, 22nd Apr 2014, by Agrimoney.com
Morning markets: slow corn sowings foster some price revival

US farmers have not done nearly as well on corn sowings as investors thought.

There had been big ideas over the amount of corn that growers would have in the ground as of Sunday, a figure released in the US Department of Agriculture's weekly Crop Progress report overnight.

Allendale, for instance, had noted that "trade is expecting as much as 15% planted versus 18% average".

However, the figure as it turned out was only 6% completed. (The average was actually 14%.)

Turnaround Tuesday

The disappointing data helped set in train something of a Turnaround Tuesday feel in Chicago, where traders believe that the second session of the week often reverses a strong trend in the first.

(And Monday saw sharp losses.)

Not that the revival in Chicago prices was huge.

After all, it is still early days for plantings, and US farmers last year showed they can sow a huge area of corn, some 40m acres, in one week if push comes to shove.

Richard Feltes at RJ O'Brien said: "The corn market won't get excited about the corn situation unless delays persist beyond the Monday May 5 update," with some viewing May 1 as a key sowing deadline, after which yield potential falls, although other commentators use mid-May.

'Planting window is opening'

Indeed, Mr Feltes urged investors to "recall that the US corn yield last year of 158.8 bushels per acre was achieved despite majority of corn crop being planted late May, and slightly below normal June-July and August precipitation".

Besides, the weather outlook has improved.

"Weather forecasts suggest fair planting weather for the next few days," CHS Hedging said, if noting that "rains should move through according to the 5 to 10 day weather forecast", helping crop already in the ground, but potentially slowing seedings.

At Iowa-based broker Market 1, Mike Mawdsley said: "The planting window is opening and progress is getting done. Farmers are ready to roll."

Wheat condition

Corn for July rebounded 0.6% to $4.96 a bushel.

After all, demand remains decent, with US exports last week coming in at 1.60m tonnes, well above the pace of 930,000 tonnes or so needed to meet USDA expectations for the full 2013-14.

The price rise helped fellow grain wheat recover a little ground too, adding 0.4% to $6.70 a bushel for May delivery and 0.5% to $6.78 a bushel for July as of 09:50 UK time (03:50 Chicago time).

The resilience was helped by USDA data showing no improvement in the condition of the US winter wheat crop either, rated at 34% "good" or "excellent", although this was less of a surprise than the corn sowings figure.

Barclays factor

Furthermore, there is some talk of funds turning less positive on agricultural commodities, and raw materials in general, fuelled by news that Barclays planning to exit large parts of its metals, agricultural and energy business.

Barclays, one of the world's biggest commodities traders, is planning to exit large parts of its metals, agricultural and energy business in a move expected to be announced this week.

 "Fund activity was extremely negative on Monday which could have something to do with the Barclays' announcement about exiting its commodities business," one broker said.

"This is a growing trend among major banks with Morgan Stanley and JP Morgan Chase also making similar restructures," deterred by growing regulation in the sector.

"If nothing else, it may scare some larger funds to take profits in fear that other large players will exit longs."

Technically too, with signs fading, Benson Quinn Commodities cautioned investors to "expect fund involvement to favour the downside".

 Contracts are now trading below 10-day and 20-day moving averages, and after failing to match in last week's rally their mid-March highs, another negative signal.

Chinese dynamics

On soybeans, gains were modest too.

The USDA crop progress report is not, yet, a factor directly for the oilseed, although tardy corn sowings would imply some area being switched to soybeans, which can be later seeded.

However, talk of soft Chinese demand remains a drag.

"We are still hearing reports that China is trying to cancel Brazilian beans and maybe even resell them for US import," one broker said, although at least the decline in Dalian soybeans for September was, at 0.4% to 4,354 yuan a tonne, slower than in the last session, when the drop was 1.1%.

CHS also noted talk "that Argentina sold soymeal into the US, cheap".

Chicago soybeans for July gained 0.4% to $14.92 a bushel.

Palm oil jumps

Soymeal itself for July was 0.4% higher at $478.20 a short ton besides the Argentina talk, while soyoil managed only a 0.1% gain to 43.30 cents a pound despite a strong performance by rival vegetable oil palm oil, which soared 1.4% to 2,680 ringgit a tonne in Kuala Lumpur.

Palm oil received support from hopes for Malaysian exports, despite cargo surveyor data showing a decline in shipments in the first 20 days of April, pegged at 5.9% by Intertek and 6.0% by SGS.

"Investors look upon the Ramadan and Eid festivals to support the recovery in exports," Chee Tat at Phillip Futures said.

Furthermore, "the softening Malaysian ringgit against the greenback has also helped to boost some overseas purchases.

"With the exchange rate in favour to overseas buyers, external demand for the ringgit-denominated palm oil is likely to increase, hence resulting in a price rally."

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