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AM markets: cotton rally stalls. But wheat extends revival

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How much unfulfilled buying pressure was left over in

cotton

in the last session?

Then, the New York December contract locked up the exchange limit on daily price moves of 3.00 cents a pound, lifted by worries over Hurricane Irma, which is currently over the Caribbean, and heading for Florida.

But the market was notably more muted on Wednesday, with the lot hitting 75.50 cents a pound, a gain of just 0.8% (albeit setting a five-month high) before falling back again.

As of 09:45 UK time (03:45 Chicago time), the contract stood at 74.83 cents a pound, down 0.1% on the day.

Miss landfall?

The threat of Irma appears to have receded a little, with the centre of Irma, up to the 120-hour forecast, seen staying clear of the US, heading to the west of Florida, according to the US National Hurricane Center.

That said, even of landfall "doesn't quite happen, the heavy rainfall that will follow the storm is a threat to cotton crops in the US South East, the nation's second biggest producing region", said Tobin Gorey at Commonwealth Bank of Australia.

And where then? There is the possibility that the storm would then veer off east into the Atlantic, a course which, from the perspective of US cotton output would be benign.

The big worry for the market is that it heads north or a bit east.

"The threat lies in Irma entering the Gulf of Mexico and heading up towards the Delta, Mid-South cotton states," said traders at Ecom.

This could bring fresh crops into the line of fire for hurricane damage, after the Texas and Delta ones tested by Hurricane Harvey.

'Very bad feeling'

"God forbid if this huge storm tracks toward the heart of the Gulf of Mexico and the warm waters in place there," said Ron Lee at Georgia-based McCleskey Cotton.

"It is not forecast to do that, but each update seems to shift the storm more west than east."

Mr Lee added that "normally I would tell you and relay the same message that nine times out of 10, tropical storms and hurricanes are selling opportunities" in the cotton market.

"However, since Harvey hit and since Irma developed, I have had a very bad feeling about the potential of this storm and its impact on the cotton crop here in Georgia and up the east coast"

Harvey damage

Still, as an extra support for bears, the weekly US Department of Agriculture crop progress data underlined that damage to US cotton from Hurricane Harvey had been localised.

Sure, the Louisiana crop suffered particularly, with its "good" or "excellent" rating down 14 points week on week to 49%.

But the figure for Texas was nudged 1 point higher to 59%, helping the national crop rating figure hold steady at 65%.

'Turnaround Tuesday on a Wednesday'

Futures in fellow row crop

soybeans

eased too in Chicago, with Benson Quinn Commodities cautioning that the contract was "becoming overbought on the daily charts while the weekly and monthly are just starting to turn higher.

"'Turn-around Tuesday' on a Wednesday seems an appropriate way to start the week for beans."

Not that losses were huge, with the November contract down 0.2% at $9.67 a bushel, remaining comfortably above the 100-day moving average it broke back above in the last session.

Indeed, Irma has some worries for this market too, in terms of disrupting early US harvesting.

The hurricane "could track into the Gulf an impact soybean harvest in the Delta," Benson Quinn Commodities said.

'Concerns about later-planted crop'

Furthermore, there remain worries about cool and dry weather in parts of the Midwest.

CHS Hedging said that "forecasts for cool dry weather this week raise concerns about whether the later-planted crop can, or will reach full maturity" – comments actually aimed at

corn

, but which reflect market concerns on soybeans too.

And Chinese demand is seen reviving, after a string of orders of US soybeans announced by the USDA through its daily alerts system.

The weekly USDA US soybean crop condition rating, at 61% good or excellent, was unchanged week on week at 61%, with a drop in the Louisiana Mississippi readings balanced out by small improvements in more major growing states, including Iowa and Illinois.

Mato Grosso upgrade

For

corn

, the UDSA crop condition reading did fall, by 1 point to 61% good or excellent, although this is hardly unusual for the time of year.

A bigger point in bulls' favour was the rating of crop maturity, which at 12% was 6 points behind the average, and spoke indeed of a crop potentially to be tested by dry and cool Midwest weather.

That said, on the positive side for world corn supply expectations, the Imea institute raised its forecast for corn production in Mato Grosso, Brazil's top producer of safrinha crop (the source of teh country's corn exports) to 30.45m tonnes, from 29.5m tonnes.

Chicago corn futures for December eased 0.2% to $3.57 ¾ a bushel.

'Worry factor'

Wheat

fared better, gaining 0.1% to $4.43 ½ a bushel in Chicago for December delivery, helped by further gains in prices in Australia, where dryness is gaining fresh market attention.

The January east coast contract on Sydney's ASX exchange settled up a further 1.2% overnight at Aus$266.40 a tonne, taking gains so far this week to 6.3%.

"The worry factor for Australian crops is bolstering prices," CBA's Tobin Gorey said.

Rouble support

Russia, meanwhile, did its bit for wheat bulls, in terms of a strengthening

rouble

, which gained 0.2% against the

dollar

to make the country's exports of assets such as its huge wheat supplies that much less competitive.

Furthermore, Russian Agriculture Minister Alexander Tkachev told the RIA news agency that the country needed to remove 3m tonnes of grain from the domestic market, potentially by intervention buying, to stabilise prices in the face of a huge 110m-tonne harvest, on the ministry's estimates.

He also forecast Russia to export 30m tonnes of wheat in 2017-18 – a record, but below figures of as high as 32m tonnes seen from some other commentators.

Statistics Canada will later release inventory data as of the end of July, which may have a particular impact on wheat and canola markets. Agrimoney.com apologises for Tuesday's premature announcement of these statistics.

By Mike Verdin

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