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Evening markets: Wasde mauls corn, while soy, coffee revive

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Thursday was really two days in agricultural commodity markets – a gentle one of intermittent sunshine for softs, while grains and oilseeds braved a torrent of crop data.

In New York, concerns were largely of a technical nature, like whether 20 cents a pound, which the July raw


contract neared in the last session was too low to be sustainable, and whether


had misled investors by falling to its lowest since August 2010 on Wednesday too.

"Just when it looked safe to be bearish," arabica coffee prices "found support at the 172-cents a pound area and have now made it back above the 178.60 resistance", Sucden Financial's coffee desk said.

"It seems like the poke through the lows yesterday was just a 'head fake' and the market is not yet ready to show its hand."

Coffee for July ended up 2.1% at 178.65 cents a pound.

Raw sugar for July closed 0.3% higher at 20.45 cents a pound, getting a little help too from news of purchase of 50,000 tonnes by Iran's Government Trading Corporation from Brazil, where harvest data confirmed a slow start to the season, if not unexpectedly so.

Fibre falls

But elsewhere in New York,


felt the blast of what was generally a bearish US Department of Agriculture's Wasde report which included the first estimates for 2012-13 on world grains and oilseeds, as well as the fibre.

The Wasde data were not helpful for cotton values, foreseeing US farmgate prices for the 2012 crop potentially dropped to 65 cents a pound, from 91 cents a pound for last year's harvest, weighed by world inventories set to break 70m bales for the first time.

Cotton for July fell the maximum 4.0 cents a pound in New York to close at 81.82 cents a pound, the lowest finish for a near-term contract since July 2010.

The new crop December lot also fell limit down, to 79.37 cents a pound.

'Bearish outlook'

Nor was the Wasde upbeat for corn - forecasting a record yield, record harvest and US year-end inventories more than doubling to nearly 1.9bn bushels over 2012-13, ahead of market expectations.

"The outlook presented for the 2012-13 corn balance sheet was bearish," Rabobank said, if adding that it expected "price downside to be muted", given the declines the grain has already suffered, which "have accounted for much of the bearish expectations ahead of this report".

The best that can be said is the corn's decline might have been worse, especially given that the day offered investors another reason to sell, with weekly US export sales showing up at some 470,000 tonnes, short of market expectations.

Investors stampeded over a small offering of bullish news - with the Rosario grains exchange cutting to 19.0m tonnes, from 19.8m tonnes, its forecast for the Argentine corn harvest, below the USDA estimate of 21.5m tonnes – to sell an estimated 23,000 Chicago corn contracts.

July corn plunged 3.3% to $5.87 ½ a bushel, the lowest finish since December for a spot contract, and hastened by a surprise upgrade to the USDA estimate for domestic corn stocks at the close of 2012-13.

The new crop December lot ended down $5.07 ¼ a bushel, its weakest close for more than a year.

Wheat recovers

That might have been expected to spell disaster for wheat too.

But having notched up a fresh contract low of $5.95 a bushel, Chicago's benchmark July contract closed up 0.2% at $6.01 ¼ a bushel.

Given the huge speculative net shorts in the grain, it is often difficult to tell whether unexpected price movements are down to unusual money flows, such as the unwinding of spreads, or deeper seated changes in investor thinking.

But the Wasde did offer bulls some succour, in forecasting lower world wheat production, and year-end stocks, in 2012-13.

'Slightly supportive'

"The numbers may seem as slightly supportive for wheat," given the break in prices that has already occurred, Darrell Holaday at Country Futures said.

Benson Quinn Commodities termed the Wasde "neutral-to-supportive" for the grain.

Sure, it suffered from somewhat from the decline in corn given that, as Mr Holaday said, wheat "has to stay competitive as a feed grain and corn will remain under pressure until we get some new crop weather worries".

In Kansas, hard red winter wheat for July closed down 0.4% at $7.27 ¼ a bushel, while Paris milling wheat for November ended 0.7% lower at E195.50 a tonne.

Nonetheless, the days of corn boasting a premium over wheat may be over, as implied by USDA forecasts of corn averaging $4.20-5.00 a bushel in 2012-13 at the US farm gate, and wheat $5.50-6.70 a bushel.

'Bullish across the board'

Still, for undiluted bullishness, it was necessary to turn to soybeans, for which the USDA lowered estimates for US inventories in both 2011-12 and next season, when, taking levels consumption into account, supplies will be at their tightest in 47 years.

"The last bull standing is soybeans," US Commodities, if adding that there was potential for extra sowings to lift US supplies yet.

Rabobank said the Wasde was "bullish across the board for soybeans, as both US and global ending stocks forecasts were below average trade estimates.

"We expect today's report will prove bullish for Chicago soybean prices as consumption, particularly in the first half of 2012-13, must be reduced in order to prevent US soybean ending stocks from declining to record low levels."

Soybeans for July ended up 1.8% at $14.55 ¼ a bushel and for November up 1.9% at $13.59 a bushel.

"If I had been long soybeans going into the report, I would be disappointed in the market today. After an $0.80-a-bushel drop in value, we are getting back only $0.25 today," Country Futures' Darrell Holaday said.


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