They did it!
At the, at least 10th, attempt, over the last
four months, March soybeans not only managed to break through the
$15.00-a-bushel mark, but close there.
The contract closed at $15.03 ½ a bushel, its highest finish
since early November, and a rise of 1.3% on the day.
OK, it took quite a battery of positive news, and the
better-traded May contract, in rising 0.5% to $14.73 ½ a bushel, indicated that
some of those were technical, or had a short lifespan.
Still, the breakthrough represents one victory for
agricultural commodity bulls amid what has been a testing time, with wheat
hitting eight-month lows this week, and May corn coming within an ace of
matching that feat at one point on Thursday.
Furthermore, there is the prospect of a US Department of Agriculture Wasde world crop supply and demand report on Friday which could, depending on how its estimates change, bring markets back to earth.
'Loves to chase a
A favourable backdrop for commodities helped, with the dollar falling 0.6%, so making
dollar-denominated exports, including many raw materials that much more
appealing to buyers in other currencies.
commodities index added 1.0%.
That was enough, indeed, to overshadow equities for once, so
maybe making funds think twice about extending their shift from commodities to
Paul Georgy at Allendale noted: "One reason for the recent
slide in grain prices is money continues to leave commodities.
"The stock market continues to grind higher and investment
money loves to chase after a rally."
However, soybeans had some crop-specific supports too, with
Conab, the Brazilian crop bureau, lowering its forecast for the domestic harvest by 1.3m tonnes to 82.1m tonnes – still record large, but well below the
current US Department of Agriculture estimate of 83.5m tonnes (up for revision in the Wasde).
Conab cited "adverse" weather, including excessive rain in
west-central areas, and dryness in the south.
Furthermore, the USDA's Buenos Aires office cut the estimate
for the Argentine harvest to 50.0m tonnes – 3.0m tonnes below the department's
official figure, and still above many trade estimates.
Again poor weather was blamed.
Furthermore, ideas on demand received a boost when the USDA
revealed yet another set of robust weekly export sales data for soybeans – of nearly
That includes 392,000 tonnes for the current season, for
which US supplies are getting drained.
"That was a good solid number given the overall US supply,"
Darrell Holaday at Country Futures said.
"Total sales now stand at 96% of the total USDA projection for
the crop year.
"That is unbelievable given the fact that we are just six months
through the 2012-13 crop year, and given the fact that there are only 3.6m tonnes
(132m bushels) that have been sold and not shipped."
In other words, as many other brokers have been pointing
out, the US is looking more and more like having to turn to imports late in the
'Cheapest in the
Still, if March soybeans took much of the limelight on
Thursday, it was wheat which actually
showed the quickest pair of heels, rising 1.9% for the May contract to $6.95 ½ a
The March lot added 1.6% to $6.86 ¾ a bushel. And these gains despite a reminder from the United Nations of a large world crop coming down the track.
The grain took some cheer in a decision by India to allow exports
of a further 5m tonnes of 2012 crop, but at a floor price of some $270 plus
taxes, and freight, which traders cautioned had left it uncompetitive.
"US wheat remains the cheapest wheat in the world," US
Commodities said, adding that future were "now deeply oversold and searching
'Signs of value'
US wheat's competitiveness was underlined by weekly export
data which, at nearly 830,000 tonnes old crop and new, far exceeded market expectations.
"The trade is looking for signs of value near these levels and,"
as far as soybeans and wheat go, "I would say that this morning's estimates
offered some signs," Benson Quinn Commodities said.
And there was buying still around in the market, albeit not
all of US supplies, like the 100,000 tonnes purchased by Syria from the Black
Sea, and the 607,000 tonnes which the European Union has exported this week,
according to licence data released on Thursday.
That took the EU's total soft wheat exports so far this
season, excluding flour and durum, to 13.7m tonnes, up from 9.4m tonnes at the
same period of 2011-12.
Not that this data provided much of a fillip to European contracts, with Paris wheat for
May ending down 0.6% at E231.00 a tonne.
London feed wheat for May closed down 0.4% at £199.25 a
tonne – the contract's lowest finish since August.
But Chicago wheat, which acts as the global benchmark, saved
its best for late in the day, after European bourses had closed, after weather
forecasts cut levels of precipitation in the dry US Plains.
"The prospect for moisture has changed again with the system
this weekend. It is definitely drier for a large part of the hard red winter
wheat area. This has supported wheat," Country Futures' Darrell Holaday said.
At RJ O'Brien, Richard Feltes said: "The weather leans
positive, with a northward shift - along with lighter amounts - of weekend
rains across southern Plains-- portions of which will hit low 90s Fahrenheit
late next week," with higher temperatures meaning more evaporation.
'Missed by about as
much as you can'
Mr Feltes also flagged the high levels of moisture in the Mississippi
Delta region, which is a setback there in hurting prospects of the spring
sowing season getting off the mark apace.
"Forecasts suggest a delayed start on March planting across the
US Delta, although south eastern states should be off to a normal start," he
That offered some support for corn, as did wheat and soybeans, on a day when the grain might have
otherwise succumbed to dismal US weekly export sales data, of a negative 50,000
tonnes old crop.
"Weekly corn sales missed estimates by about as much as you
can, which indicates that this market proceeds to trade without a key component
having much involvement," Benson Quinn Commodities said.
May corn closed up 0.4% at $6.91 ¼ a bushel in Chicago – losing
its premium over May wheat – while the March lot added 0.5% to $7.11 ½ a
Sugar vs ethanol
Bigger gains were to be had in New York raw sugar, which jumped 3.1% to 18.77 cents a pound for May
delivery as investors took further note of the strength of London white sugar, indicating potentially some
consumers caught short.
White sugar for May added 2.7% to $532.40 a tonne, the best
close for a spot contract in nearly four months.
Furthermore, the imminence of Brazil's cane crushing season
is beginning to have greater impact, with the potential for logistical hiccups currently
delaying soybean shipments to hamper sugar exports too, besides the appeal to
mills of making ethanol rather than sweeteners at these levels.
Nick Penney at Sucden Financial noted that "the Centre South
Brazil crush season in April may be largely devoted to ethanol production, with
millers intent on benefitting from a forecast increase in price," besides
changes in Brazilian taxation on ethanol and blending rates.
"Mills traditionally begin the harvest season by maximising
ethanol production to replenish stocks and also because it is a ready source of
cash early in the campaign."
New York cotton
for May fell back 0.8% from 10-month highs to 86.50 cents a pound, despite US
export data showing actual shipments topping 500,000 running bales for the first
time in 2012-13.
However, export sales eased to 150,000 running bales,
including cancellations of 23,300 running bales by China, the top buyer, whose
appetite is being especially closely watched, given the humungous inventories
of the fibre held in the country.