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Evening markets: ags put on brave face as oil, shares slide

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OK, Chicago's benchmark wheat lot set a contract low. But agricultural commodities could have fared worse, all things considered.

It was a dismal day for most risk assets, after US jobs data, again, put the frighteners on investors. The world's biggest economy added 115,000 jobs in April, well below expectations of 162,000.

Shares

tumbled nearly 2% on Europe's main markets, and were 1.3% lower on Wall Street in late deals.

And commodities suffered too, with US

crude

falling more than $4 to drop below $100 a barrel for the first time since early February.

The CRB commodities index tumbled 1.4% to its lowest finish of 2012.

'Lot of pressure in the grains'

"Macro markets continue to hand trader's negative news which causes money flow to exit commodity investments," Paul Georgy at Allendale said.

At Country Futures, Darrell Holaday said: "Massive losses in the equity and energy markets put a lot of pressure in the grains early today."

But

wheat

at least managed to outperform the average commodity, ie the CRB, if not living up to its resilient start to the day.

The grain did buckle eventually under the weight of huge harvest expectations stoked by the Kansas wheat tour, estimates for Oklahoma and, later on, an Informa Economics upgrade to its estimate for the US winter wheat harvest.

Informa raised its forecast for the crop by 25m bushels to 1.656m bushels, and lifted its estimate for spring wheat sowings too, by some 1.5m acres.

US vs EU

Then add in the talk that India, which while a huge wheat producer usually hoards the grain for domestic consumption, is thinking about exporting 10m tonnes of the grain because inventories are so large, and the stage was set for wheat weakness.

July soft red winter wheat fell 1.0% to $6.09 ½ a bushel in Chicago – the contract's lowest close – and keeping pace with July hard red winter wheat, which ended at $6.27 a bushel, the weakest finish for the lot since July 2010.

Declines were seen in Europe too, although not enough to notch up multi-month lows.

"The effects of winterkill on the Continent, coupled with doubts over Black sea production, mean that traders on this side of the Atlantic are not so bearish," traders at a major European commodities house said.

Paris's May contract, still trading reasonable volumes, added 1.0% to E220.00 a tonne, although the November lot fell 1.5% to E195.75 a tonne.

London's July lot edged 0.3% lower to £171.00 a tonne.

'Shrinking Argentine crop'

Back in Chicago,

soybeans

gained, for old crop at least, by 0.3% for July delivery to $14.78 ¼ a bushel, resolutely resisting liquidation despite the huge numbers of speculative longs in the market.

"The market is still trying to dial in a shrinking Argentine crop. Some estimates now have the crop below 40m tonnes," US Commodities said.

The new crop November lot was less resolute, despite the announcement of further US sales, through the US Department of Agriculture's daily alerts system, of 120,000 tonnes to "unknown".

But that was before Informa lifted it estimate for US soybean sowings to 75.8m acres, 1.9m acres higher than the USDA figure, and meaning growers are on course to lift seedings of the oilseed after all.

November soybeans ended down 1 cent at $13.66 ¾ a bushel.

'Planting should become more aggressive'

Not that lower soybean sowings meant a huge switch to

corn

, for which Informa cut its estimate by less than 300,000 acres, to a still-large 96.1m acres.

"The market is starting to realise that the total acreage number (of all crops) will be much larger than the [USDA's] March Intentions number indicated," Mr Holaday said.

That was one negative for corn, another being the idea of rain falling enough to help US seedlings, but not enough to really cause problems for the pace of plantings.

"The bottom line is the Midwest will see frequent rain through Monday and soil moisture should be favourable throughout the region," World Weather said.

"Planting delays will increase, but some fieldwork should continue around the rain.

"Shower activity will decline next week and planting should become more aggressive."

'Basis remains on fire'

These factors dampened support for the new crop December lot spurred by US sales of 116,000 tonnes of corn to South Korea for 2012-13 and, potentially, 240,000 tonnes to Mexico (booked for sourcing from "optional origin").

The December lot dropped 1.0% to $5.24 ¼ a bushel, recovering some ground from a 13-month low of $5.15 a bushel set earlier.

But old crop contracts gained support from revived ideas of tight stocks, supported by a strong cash market.

"US corn basis remains on fire. Central Illinois pushed to $0.50 a bushel over the July futures," US Commodities said.

The July contract gained 0.9% to $6.20 ¼ a bushel, while the soon-to-expire May contract added 1.8% to $6.62 ¼ a bushel.

Trading range

Among soft commodities, New York

cotton

dropped 1.4% to 87.99 cents a pound for July, as might be expected of a crop which, unlike most ags, is an industrial raw material, so moves more in line with the macro-economic mood.

But raw

sugar

perked up, as the idea that the market had been oversold in approaching last year's rebound point of 20.40 cents a pound earlier this week, gained hold.

"We see the market supported by trade and end-user buying near 20.50 cents a pound but expect resistance in the medium term near 21.50 cents a pound," Nick Penney at Sucden Financial said.

The July lot added 0.8% to 20.83 cents a pound.

By Agrimoney.com

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