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Evening markets: beans jump, hogs wallow

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A tale of two markets became a story of three as oil-making crops powered away from grains and softs which, nonetheless, left hogs languishing in swine flu hollow.

Palm oil – reaching a nine-month high - and soybeans – closing in on a seven month high - extended their advantage as receding fears over swine flu worsening economic slowdown returned traders to thoughts of tight stocks and buoyant demand.

July palm oil closed up 115 ringgit, or 4.6%, at 2,595 ringgit a tonne, the highest for a leading contract since late August last year despite some conflicting export data, with one cargo surveyor, Intertek, reporting a 2.5% in Malaysian palm oil exports this month from March and another, Societe Generale de Surveillance, reporting a 3.5% fall.

Soaring soybeans

The rise gave Chicago's soybean bulls an extra fillip, as if they needed one after a helpful report from Buenos Aires Grain Exchange, which cut its forecast for Argentina's soybean crop this year by 2.2m tonnes to 34m tonnes, as well as some robust shipment data. Weekly export data showed 835,000 tonnes of old crop beans and 335,000 tonnes of new crop beans packed off.

May soybeans stood 26.5 cents higher at $10.60 ½ a bushel at 17:30 GMT. A leading contract has not closed higher since late September, when Lehman's collapse was kicking the stuffing out of markets.

July soybeans did their best to keep up, gain 22 cents at $10.47 a bushel. But investors were reserving judgement over later crops, with November soybeans only at 936 a bushel, up 3.5 cents, and the November 2010 contract only at $9.08 a bushel, if showing a 6.5 cent rise.

That gave next month's soybeans a whacking 16.7% premium over those due in 16 months' time. Discuss.

Cautious grains

Corn and wheat, however, refused to stray far from opening levels. In fact, May corn stood at its opening level, $3.93 a bushel, despite some modestly upbeat export data - 1 .2m tonnes of old crop corn and 116,000 tonnes of new crop.

May wheat advanced a cautious 2.25 cents to $5.23 a bushel, as the prospect of rain delaying further US spring wheat plantings more than made up for disappointing exports - 142,000 tonnes old crop wheat and 109,000 tonnes new crop.

There was some element of Chicago's pattern in European markets, but it was, fittingly, more reserved. In London, May wheat ended at £110.75, unchanged, as were all contracts bar this July, down £0.25 at £112.00 a tonne.

Paris May wheat added E1.50 to E142.00 a tonne for with rape, Europe's answer to palm, showing solid gains in distant contracts, if dropping E0.25 to E298.25 a tonne for May.

Pigs stumble

Softs were also a mixed bunch, with New York sugar for July adding 0.15 cents to 13.99 cents a pound, amid some talk of fund buying, while cocoa for July slipped $230 to $2,373 as traders looked for messages in Cadbury's interim statement.

"The results were not bad, but could have been better," a trader told Reuters, the news agency.

July coffee ended 0.5 cents down at 116.00 cents a pound.

However, those falls were nothing compared with hogs and pork bellies, which turned south again amid swine flu fears. May hogs got the worst of it, down 2.05 cents at 58.40 a pound, taking to 16.0% their loss since last Thursday, the day before flu fears first touched the market.

June hogs were off 2.15 cents at 64.60 cents a pound, down 10.1% over the week, with the July contract down 1.25 cents at 67.60 a pound.

The July contract now stands at a 16.1% premium to May, compared with a 5.1% premium a week ago, suggesting that traders believe there is some hope for a recovery in demand after an imminent slump.

May pork bellies were off 2.025 cents at 74.50 cents a pound, taking their flu losses to 9.4%, with the July contract at 75.00 cents, off 0.875 cents, taking its week's decline to 10.7%.

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