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Palm oil hits seven-month low on Malaysia export slowdown

It isn't the busiest day on agricultural commodity markets, with US and London ones closed for public holidays.

But that didn't stop palm oil futures making a bit of a stir, in hitting their lowest in in nearly seven months as hopes for a large pre-Ramadan stock-up by importers faded.

Sure, Malaysian palm exports are running comfortably higher than a month ago, with Intertek putting the rise in the first 25 days of May at 14% month on month.

But that represents a slowdown on the 23% rise recorded in the first half of May.

And it is being led by European Union demand, more than doubled to 272,393 tonnes, rather than Ramadan, with shipments to the Middle East up 25% at 74,428 tonnes, questioning how much extra business the Muslim festival will inspire.

Ringgit strength

As an extra setback, the Malaysian ringgit was stronger too, touching 3.2020 ringgit to $1, nearly matching the 2014 high of 3.2015 ringgit set on Thursday, and well above levels of 3.30 and higher early in the year.

A strong ringgit makes Malaysian exports, such as palm oil, of which the country is the second-ranked producer and shipper, less appealing to buyers in other currencies.

With exports seen potentially too small this month to counter rising production, which is on a seasonal uptick, palm oil futures for August touched 2,483 ringgit a tonne in Kuala Lumpur, the lowest for a best-traded contract since late October.

The contract stood at 2,488 ringgit a tonne at 09:20 UK time (03:20 Chicago time), down 1.2% on the day.

Rubber recovery

Elsewhere among oilseeds, soybeans for January eased 4 yuan to 4,584 yuan a tonne on the Dalian exchange in China, which is preparing for a further auction on Wednesday of supplies from state reserves.

But soymeal for January added 2 yuan to 3,609 yuan a tonne, offering some small support to ideas of recovering crush margins for Chinese processors, the world's top importers of the oilseed.

And, moving on to Tokyo, rubber made small gains too, adding 0.8% to 206.00 yen a kilogramme, offered some support by gains on broader markets, to which the tyre ingredient, as an industrial commodity, tends to be more sensitive than food commodities.

Asian shares posted gains on Monday, adding 1.0% in Tokyo, 0.3% in Shanghai and 0.4% in Sydney, supported in part by the strong performance by US shares on Friday, when the S&P 500 index closed at a record high, but also by the easy win by Petro Poroshenko in Ukraine's presidential election.

Furthermore, data on Friday showed rubber stocks in warehouses monitored by the Shanghai futures exchange falling 2.3% week on week, to their lowest since November, at 159,270 tonnes.

That said, futures remain not too far above their four-year low of 196.70 yen a kilogramme reached last month.

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