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Evening markets: US jobless data undermine crops

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Food commodities proved a better bet than shares on Thursday.

But they were vulnerable, nonetheless, to the sharp blow to investor sentiment caused by worse than expected US unemployment figures.

Official data showed that 467,000 non-farm workers lost their jobs in America last month, some 100,000 more than had been predicted, taking the US unemployment rate to 9,5% - its highest since 1983.

The challenges to agricultural commodities were both direct – concerns that economic revival, and consumption with it, may be slower than had been expected – and indirect. The dollar, which stood above $1.42 against the euro on Wednesday, strengthened to $1.3998, making dollar-denominated assets more expensive to foreign acquirers.

Meanwhile crude oil, an important consideration when investing in commodities which can be made into fuels, lost 3.5%.

"Crude oil and the equity markets are lower while the dollar index is higher, a bearish combination for all the grains," Vic Lespinasse, Chicago market watcher for GrainAnalyst.com, said.

Beans slide

In Chicago, soybeans lost early gains, with the July contract standing 11.5 cents lower at $12.47 a bushel at 17:15 GMT and new crop November beans down 7.75 cents at $10.08 a bushel.

And this despite weekly US export sales data showing a robust 193,000 tonnes for old crop beans and 250,000 tonnes for new crop.

Corn had the extra input of benign weather to deal with as the US corn crop enters its critical pollination phase.

While bears spared near-term corn the worst, sending Chicago's July contract down 3.25 cents to $3.48 ½ a bushel, new crop contracts suffered. December corn slid 2.1% to $3.61 ½ a bushel.

Wheat robust

Wheat, indeed, looked lightly treated. Especially as its weekly US export sales were, at 242,000 tonnes, considered light.

July wheat slipped just 2 cents to $5.04 ¼ a bushel, with December off 2.75 cents at $5.59 a bushel.

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