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Evening markets: cocoa tumble overshadows wheat price gains

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Tuesday lived up to something of its reputation in Chicago for producing turnarounds.


neatly regained Monday's losses.

In New York, however, it was simply a day of reversal, with


slumping a staggering 5.9%, and other soft commodities lower.

Cocoa's fall to $3,057 a tonne for May delivery mirrored a 6.0% drop to £1,997 a tonne in London's May lot, also a two-month low for a spot contract.

And it was accompanied by swollen trading volumes, the highest for seven months, in contrast with the relative trickle of trades in many other agricultural commodities, ahead of key US sowings and stocks data due on Thursday.

In the charts

The excitement in cocoa was blamed on both fundamental and technical factors.

Supply hopes were raised by headway by forces loyal to Alassane Ouattara, the UN-supported claimant to presidency of Ivory Coast, the world's top cocoa producer.

They were reported to have seized two key towns in the western cocoa belt, potentially opening a route to the port of San Pedro and allowing the resumption of exports, which Mr Ouattara has barred to weaken his rival, incumbent Laurent Gbagbo.

On the technical front, the bean moved down through the 100-day moving average, and was viewed by some analysts as displaying a so-called head-and-shoulders chart too.

Expect more volatility, with the bean near its 200-day moving average, and options expiry approaching.

Jurgens Bauer at PitGuru urged investors to "watch for a move that settles below $3,100 a tonne to bring $3,040-3,000 into play prior to Friday's May options expiring".

'Safer to sell'

Sticking with soft commodities, raw


eased, eventually, on better talk on supplies, with Thailand, the second-ranked exporter of the sweetener, reported to be potentially on track for a record 8m tonnes of production, and speculators selling out amid prospects of easier supplies.

"With the Brazilian crop approaching it seems the funds/speculators are reducing their sugar longs," Thomas Kujawa at Sucden Financial said.

"It seems to be safer to sell a rally than buy a dip at the moment," he said, adding that, technically, "it seems the bulls need to get the market above 28 cents a pound in the coming few sessions or the market will break 27 cents a pound and test the support on the recent lows".

That would be around 25.50 cents a pound. New York's benchmark May contract closed down 0.1% at 27.02 cents a pound, having spent most of the day in positive territory.

'Simply not panned out'

Grains did better than that, in the US at least, and especially


, which gained 1.7% to $7.37 ½ a bushel for May delivery, helped by the dismal state of winter wheat seedlings in Texas, Colorado and Oklahoma (with Kansas's poor but improved) thanks to a lack of rain which does not look like ending soon.

At Country Futures, Darrell Holaday noted how predictions of rain had "simply not panned out and now the forecasts for next week have turned warmer and drier for the southern US Plains".

US Commodities said: "The southern Plains do not have much moisture in the 10-13 day maps. This will continue to stress the hard red winter wheat crop."

In Kansas, where hard red winter wheat is traded, the May lot ended 2.2% higher at $8.67 a bushel.

'Bearish tone'

The feeling was that the gain might have been higher were it not for selling pressure on


, which felt more icy blasts of selling amid expectations of a huge acreage number, and potentially better-than-thought stocks too, in Thursday's US plantings report from the US Department of Agriculture.

"The USDA reports are taking on a bearish tone, especially for corn," Benson Quinn Commodities said, noting talk that high prices early in the year had rationed demand, while buying "plenty of acres".

And there is more of the disappointment thing at the lack of confirmation of more (OK, technically any) Chinese purchases of US corn.

"Trade still waits confirmation of more corn sales to China with rumours they bought more corn over the weekend, with estimates for all purchases as high as 3.0m-3.5m tonnes" counting both 2010-11 and 2011-12 crop years, Benson Quinn said.

Corn ended 0.1% higher at $6.71 ¾ a bushel for May, but it was a struggle, with the lot standing 10 cents below that at one stage.

'Great opportunity for China'


gained 1.0% to $13.63 ½ a bushel, helped by the thought that maybe they had not bought enough acres, and with, Mr Holaday said, "wet conditions in Brazil restricting harvest and reducing production".

Actually, things in Brazil are better than they were, with the harvest now potentially nearing two-thirds complete and, according to US Commodities, "ahead of the five-year average".

Any dip would be "a great opportunity for China to buy".

"The US does not have enough in stocks to be comfortable with any further old crop Chinese purchases."


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