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PM markets: wheat prices lifted by EU woes. But corn tumbles

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The

wheat

complex recovered from early weakness on Monday.

However, this time, the source of inspiration for bulls was not drought-pressed US

spring wheat

, futures in which actually ended lower, by 0.7% to $6.38 ½ a bushel for July delivery, after earlier setting a two-year high of $6.49 ½ a bushel.

Not, it has to be said, that the weather outlook is fantastic for the northern US Plains spring wheat belt, with MDA noting that weather models for the region have turned drier in the six-to-10 day horizon.

"Drier weather in the northern Plains would maintain moisture shortages and stress on spring wheat," the weather service said.

But investors were cautious over spring wheat ahead of US Department of Agriculture weekly crop ratings due later on Monday, which are expected to show an improvement in the US crop by 3 points week on week to a (still low) 48% rated "good" or "excellent".

'Stressing wheat growth'

The prime mover this time in the wheat complex, to judge by broker comment, was actually Paris wheat, which closed up 2.3% at E177.50 a tonne for September delivery, the highest finish for a spot contract for 18 months.

The better-traded December contract added 2.0% to E180.75 a tonne, a 10-month closing high, amid growing worries over dryness in the European Union too.

"The wheat complex is trading to new highs for the move on spillover from second gap higher trade in French milling wheat due to hot and dry forecasts for western Europe," said Benson Quinn Commodities.

MDA said that "hot and dry weather will continue across western Europe this week, stressing

wheat

growth in north western Europe and

corn

and

sunflowers

in south western Europe".

Corn vs wheat

The strength in Paris wheat futures "tells me that the EU wheat crop is leading the gains today," said Mike Zuzolo at Global Commodity Analytics, who was earlier asking whether wheat could repeat its rally of late June 2015.

And strength in wheat "is likely igniting further long wheat spreading against [short positions in]

corn".

Certainly, while Chicago wheat settled modestly higher on Monday, by 0.4% to $4.67 a bushel for July delivery, corn could find no such strength, ending down 2.3% at $3.75 ¼ a bushel for July.

The corn-wheat spread has now soared some 60% in a week July basis.

'Weather leans negative'

The selling in corn came despite another week of decent US export data, at 1.22m tonnes as measured by cargo inspections, up from 1.07m tonnes the previous week.

However, as CHS Hedging noted, "corn is trading down on prospects of good weather and improved crop conditions".

"US Midwest corn and soybean belt weather will be good this week," said Terry Reilly at Futures International.

At RJ O'Brien, Richard Feltes said that "weather leans negative [for prices], with a cooler tone to US temperatures and two-thirds of the Midwest slated for rains next week".

Commodities out of fashion

Meanwhile, data late on Friday showing that hedge funds had slashed their net shot in corn futures and options by 120,000 lots in the week to last Tuesday was viewed as bearish too, in cutting the potential for price support from this dynamic.

Furthermore, the

dollar

provided a gentle headwind to commodity markets in general by gaining 0.5% against a basket of currencies, making dollar-denominated assets that much less affordable.

Indeed, the

CRB

commodities index dropped 1.0% to a 14-month closing low, little helped by a return in

Brent crude

back below $47 a barrel.

Oil price weakness is also a particular negative for ags, like corn, used in making biofuels.

Easier soy

Soybeans

struggled too against the likes of a firmer dollar and decent US Midwest weather prospects, although less so, not having gained so much ground earlier in the month on the US spring wheat woes.

Soybeans for July ended 0.1% lower at $9.37 ¾ a bushel.

US soybean for exports last week fell to 275,461 tonnes, from 511,718 tonnes the week before.

Still, that was "within trade expectations and still in the acceptable range of exports needed to reach USDA export predictions for the 2016-17 marketing year," said CHS Hedging.

Cotton off

Dollar strength, and general malaise over commodities, was seen as a factor in soft commodity markets too, helping put an end to early resilience in New York

cotton

, which for December ended down 0.5% at 69.04 cents a pound, is weakest finish of 2017.

The fibre is being weighed by strong prospects for the US harvest this year although at least, from a bull's perspective, the December lot managed to avoid setting a fresh 2017 intraday low, not reaching the 68.58 cents a pound reached in the last session.

However,

cocoa

was seen as copping more of the anti-commodities feeling, plunging 4.6% to settle at $1,934 a tonne in New York for September, with bears encouraged by the failure of the contract to hold above a clutch of moving averages, including the 50-day and 100-day lines.

Arabica coffee managed a rise of 0.5% to126.60 cents a pound, after the USDA forecast a drop in world coffee stocks at the close of 2017-18 to a six-year low.

By Mike Verdin

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