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PM markets: Nate ends up more of a mate to corn than cotton

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In the end, the gains brought to

cotton

futures by the prospect of Hurricane Nate hitting Louisiana on Sunday did not stick.

Sure, besides wind damage, Nate (currently a tropical storm, but expected to step up to a hurricane on Saturday) is expected to bring "rainfall totals across cotton producing regions within the south eastern US… currently forecast at 2 – 4 inches" said Louis Rose at Rose Commodity Group.

"This is 2-4 inches more than any cotton producer wants at this point of the season."

But with the last two hurricanes, Harvey and Irma, having failed to bring the crop damage that some had expected, and US weekly export sales data a little disappointing, cotton futures for December ended up closing down 0.8% at 68.27 cents a pound in New York.

Mr Rose had said that "an analysis of pertinent data" suggested US export sales of cotton last week were "likely to be at least as high as last week's total of nearly 210,000 running bales".

In fact, the total was a little under 185,000 bales, upland and pima cotton combined.

'Improve soil moisture'

Nate, however, did have an effect on some other markets – and a negative one for the Chicago

soft red winter wheat

market, in bringing the prospect of rains for the Midwest and Plains, needed to help sowings.

"The tropical moisture associated with Tropical Storm Nate will eventually enhance rainfall along a cold front as it moves eastward across the Midwest," said MDA.

"The heaviest rainfall is expected to favour northern Kansas, eastern Nebraska, Iowa, northern Missouri, Wisconsin, and northern Illinois," the weather service said.

"The heavy rainfall in these areas will… improve soil moisture for establishment of winter wheat."

Ohio dryness

And weekly US Department of Agriculture drought data highlighted the need for moisture in particular in some major soft red winter wheat growing states, such as Illinois, of which 13.3% was rated in drought, up 0.5 points week on week.

The figure for key producer Ohio jumped 10.3 points to 14.2%.

As an extra negative, rains are helping the drought-hit Australian crop too, while the European Union raised its forecast for its soft wheat harvest by 1.0m tonnes to 140.0m tonnes, raising its export forecast for 2017-18 in line.

The UK chipped in with an above-expectation wheat harvest estimate too, of 15.2m tonnes, sending London futures down 0.4% to £143.10 a tonne for November delivery, despite the bonus of weaker sterling.

'Below-average protein'

Chicago soft red winter wheat, the world benchmark, for December closed down 0.1% at $4.40 ¾ a bushel, helped off intraday lows by decent US export sales data, at 492,300 tonnes for last week, at the top end of market expectations.

But Minneapolis-traded spring wheat fared better, adding 0.9% to $6.15 ½ a bushel, amid ideas that prices have gone low enough for high protein wheat, given the short supplies worldwide of such quality grain.

The Canadian crop is, apparently, the latest to fall short on this score.

"Protein reports are coming in almost uniformly below average and is being reflected in protein scales at ports," said Tregg Cronin at Halo Commodity Company.

'More two-sided yield reports'

As for

corn

and

soybeans

, Nate was supportive in ideas of its rains slowing the US harvest of both crops.

The Midwest rains "will stall corn and soybean drydown and harvesting", MDA said.

Furthermore, there are ideas of cash crop markets recovering as the prospect of rains and higher water levels erodes the huge barge freight premiums seen of late.

And too, there is an easing in the optimism over harvest yields.

Halo's Tregg Cronin flagged that there been "a few more two-sided yield reports", although adding that "by and large the soybean and corn crops look set to get larger on next week's Wasde report with the vast majority of observations yielding 'better than expected' or 'as expected'."

'Will be a big buyer'

That said, Informa pegged the US corn yield at 170.5 bushels per acre, above the 169.9 bushels per acre currently estimated by the USDA.

Informa put the US soybean yield at 50.0 bushels per acre, a touch above the USDA's current figure of 49.9 bushels per acre.

Still, corn futures gained, by 0.4% to $3.49 ½ a bushel for December, also offered a bit of support by US export sales last week of 814,100 tonnes, above trade forecasts of a figure of at best 700,000 tonnes.

Soybeans for November added 1.1% to $9.68 ¼ a bushel, with export sales at a respectable 1.0m tonnes, despite a holiday in China, the top soybean importer, for part of last week.

Benson Quinn Commodities attributed strength in soybean futures to expectations that China will be a "big buyer next week when it returns from a week-long holiday". (Actually, longer than a week.)

EU hedging

Back in New York,

raw sugar

for March closed up 1.0% at 14.39 cents a pound, helped by a further rise in white sugar, which for December added 0.5% to $377.60 a tonne in London.

"The talk is now that the March London contract is likely to be the repository" for hedging by EU producers "rather than December, and that there may not be that much deliverable sugar around for December expiry," said Sucden Financial.

The gain in prices came despite weakness in the

real

, which dropped 0.6% against the dollar, so cutting the value in dollar terms of assets in which Brazil is a big player.

The problem was severe enough that they do not appear ready to support ideas of top production for the coming year, perhaps no matter how good it rains from no one.

Rain debate

Arabica coffee

defied the real too to add 1.6% to 127.20 cents a pound for December, with revived worries about the threat of dryness to Brazil's prospects for 2018.

Jack Scoville at Price Futures said that "the trade is still trying to understand how much rain fell in coffee areas in Brazil", moisture which would "promote flowering for the next crop.

"Some producers expect a very good flowering after the rain, while others say the rains were not enough," Mr Scoville said.

He also flagged that, signally, FC Stone "in Brazil toured coffee areas last week and noted defoliation of the trees.

"The problem was severe enough that they do not appear ready to support ideas of top production for the coming year, perhaps no matter how good it rains from now on."

By Mike Verdin

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