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Evening markets: Russia and weather sink wheat below corn

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There was no doubting, this time, the sincerity of

corn's

determination to be more expensive than

wheat

.

Corn briefly dipped a toe into premium territory in the last session, for the first time since 1996. On Wednesday it went up to the knees closing, for May, at $7.55 ½ a bushel. Chicago wheat for May ended at $7.52 ¾ a bushel.

The inversion reflected in part two sides of the same coin – rain expected for major US growing areas.

That is seen as beneficial for wheat farmers, who have seen crops of the hard red winter variety suffer for weeks through a lack of rain.

"The weather in western Kansas is wetter in the two-day maps. Oklahoma and Texas look wetter in the seven-to-10 day maps," US Commodities said.

At Country Futures Darrell Holaday said: "The forecasts for increase rainfall in the hard red winter wheat areas by next week and digging further south than yesterday's models indicated has resulted in an overall weakness in the wheat."

However, for corn growers, attempting to ramp up corn plantings, rains could pose a setback.

"The weather forecast could eventually become positive for corn prices with continued moisture moving through the Midwest and that could spark a planting delay rally," Mr Holaday said.

'Overtaken the export channels'

Wheat prices were also sunk by talk, as reported exclusively by Agrimoney.com, that Russia may reopen to grain exports sooner than the market had expected, and potentially in June.

"This idea appears far-fetched," Jerry Gidel at North America Risk Management Services said. After all, Russia had followed up a drought-devastated 2010 with disappointing winter sowings and delays to spring plantings too.

"But the idea has overtaken the export channels."

"It's export talk. Exporters are talking about it," Don Roose, president of US Commodities, told Agrimoney.com.

And whatever Russia's export capability, it comes with a reputation for fierce competitiveness.

'Good luck to shorts'

Chicago's May wheat contract ended down 0.9%, if above day lows, while the Kansas wheat, of the drought-beset hard red winter variety, lost 1.0% to $8.85 a bushel, whatever some more bullish advocates may say.

"The the hard red winter wheat regions look like a soybean field that has already dropped leaves," Matthew Pierce at PitGuru said.

He saw the weather as "not getting better with a frost scare this weekend and into next week.

"So to review recent weather in Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas - freeze, drought, freeze, drought, 100 degree heat and wildfires and now freeze again. Good luck to those short this crop."

Informa estimates

Investors long in corn might certainly be feeling more comfortable, with a 0.4% gain for May delivery, while the December lot soared 1.3% to $6.45 a bushel, helped by the sowing concerns.

It is one thing US farmers looking to ramp up corn sowings even beyond earlier expectations, as Informa Economics held out on Wednesday. But it may be another thing planting them, if the poor weather arrives.

Informa also estimated US corn stocks at 575m bushels at the end of 2010-11, 100m bushels below the controversial US Department of Agriculture forecast unveiled on Friday, recovering a little to 871m bushels by the end of 2011-12.

That would, however, remain below the psychologically important 1bn-bushel level.

China worries

Corn's strength lifted sowings rival

soybeans

despite a continued feed of negative news. Wednesday's was talk that Paraguay's crop may reach 8.4m tonnes and smash the national record, and more on weaker prospects for sales to China, the top importer of the oilseed.

China's Xinhua news agency reported that Beijing would use all measures at its disposal to stabilise prices and curb inflation, a drive which tallies with its move to release soybeans from state inventories, and spare crushers from more expensive US imports.

Benson Quinn Commodities noted reports earlier that "China are contemplating the cancellation of additional soybean sales, as the government has indicated intentions to sell 3m tonnes of soybean reserves at prices below the current import prices.

"Reserve sales will need to be replaced, but not necessarily at these prices."

In metals markets, the fears of a China economic clampdown prompted

copper

to reverse gains

.

Texas rain?

Cotton

lost headway too, downbeaten by the talk on China, which is the top importer of the fibre too, as well as the prospects of rain for drought-struck Texas, America's top growing state.

New York cotton for May fell 1.2% to 197.35 cents a pound, with the better-traded July lot closing down 2.7% at 180.64 cents a pound – below the key technical point of its 50-day moving average.

New crop December cotton fell 0.6% to 134.70 cents a pound.

Sweetness sours

Still, New York

sugar

did even worse, slumping 3.1% to 24.79 cents a pound for May delivery, as thoughts of tight supplies weakened with better hopes for Brazilian and Thai production.

Indeed, Dubai's giant Al Khaleej refinery revealed it had shut because of slow demand.

The disadvantage of the near-term lot was extended by a roll by investors into later-expiring contracts, which help limit losses in the October contract to 1.8%.

Coffee

was the place for bulls to be, adding 2.5% to 280.70 cents a pound for New York's May arabica contract, on what was largely considered a technical rise.

Jurgens Bauer at PitGuru said half way through the trading day: "With a strong seasonal tendency apt to carry coffee prices higher beginning mid-month, and a chart formation that resembles a bull flag, a push above 278.50 cents a pound bodes well for further upside potential and a challenge of 281.30 and beyond."

By Agrimoney.com

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