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Ranch breakfast top crop theme for first quarter

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It was a miserable day for grains investors. Which just about summed up the quarter.

Commodities weren't a complete dead loss for the first three months of 2010. Nickel, for instance, jumped some 35% in London, spurred by concerns about a deficit in supplies of the metal, which is used in making stainless steel.

But investors in farm commodities had to be choosy.

They were the main cause of the decline of some 4% in the Reuters Jefferies CRB commodities index over the period.

Sugar sours

Sugar was the chiefculprit, plunging 38% - and after such a bright start, with New York prices hitting a 29-year high only last month.

Main farm commodity losers in the first quarter of 2010

Sugar:- 38% (New York)

Wheat: -16.8% (Chicago)

Corn: -16.7% (Chicago)

Soybeans: -9.6% (Chicago)

"It looks like some of the estimates of low stocks may have been out too," David Sadler at Sucden Financial told

"It doesn't take much in the way of different numbers to alter the picture."

And investors, who had built up huge long positions, showed no mercy when the crop softened, clamouring for the exits and so fuelling the rout which, as Mr Sadler said, has achieved in six weeks the decline that took more than twice as long after the last two price spikes.

Grain drains

But grains did their bit too, with wheat's plunge on Wednesday taking its loss for the quarter to 16.8%, overtaking corn's 16.7% decline.

... and some of the farm commodity winners

Orange juice: +9.1% (New York)

Cotton: + 7.1% (New York)

Robusta coffee: +1.8% (London)

Arabica coffee: +0.2% (New York)

Cocoa: +0.1% (London)

Soybeans lost 9.6%, weakened by ever-increasing South American crops (also a factor in corn's decline), if gaining some support of late from the Argentina port strike and better weather hopes in the US, which have cut the chances of a switch from early-sown corn to later-planted beans.

Best menu

For winners, investors needed to keep the breakfast theme, popular late last year, but make it more ranch style. With plenty of protein, and no sugar. Nor cereals.

Live cattle and lean hogs did well, both posting double digit gains, as the herd reductions of the last few years, coupled with demand spurred by economic revival, started to feed through into a market squeeze.

And juice wasn't far behind, as winter frost added to concerns for supplies already under pressure thanks to disease, and the number of farmers turning their groves into fields or real estate.

Eaten in denims – cotton remains near its two-year high, as again economic revival spurs demand for clothing - and the farm commodity breakfast may have looked appetising enough.

Especially if eaten with stainless steel cutlery.


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