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Evening markets: cold fears help corn end higher, eventually

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In the end, it was fears for a cold snap in the US which, again, saved



The long-awaited US Department of Agriculture revision to its estimate of the US corn crop was inconclusive.

OK, it was on the face of it reasonably bullish, pegging the US corn yield at 148.1 bushels per acre, down from a 153.3 bushels-per-acre forecast last month, and 1.0 bushels per acre beneath market expectations.

But it wasn't that bullish. "The problem the corn market is having is that commercial user did not look at those USDA numbers and think 'oh my God, I better get all of my corn bought at these price levels'," Darrell Holaday Country Futures said.

"The people who want to buy and have bought.

What's in the price?

Furthermore, while analysts were expecting 149.1 bushels per acre from the report, many believe the US yield will end up lower once the USDA, known for conservative moves, gets comfortable with all the crop damage from a hot and dry July and August.

"The actual trade guess is much closer to 146 bushels an acre at this point, but no one felt the USDA would be this aggressive," Matthew Pierce at PitGuru said.

And then there is the question of what had already been factored in to futures.

"There is a strong possibility that a sub-148 bushels-per-acre yield has been traded," Benson Quinn Commodities.

'Shocked the market'

Then there was a drag from


to factor in, after the USDA issued an unexpected upgrade to its estimate for the domestic yield, to 41.8 bushels per acre.

"The USDA shocked the soybean market," Darrell Holaday Country Futures said.

Still, soybean estimates are open to their own intrigue, of course.

"Many observers believe the soybean production forecast will be reduced in October," Darrel Good at the University of Illinois said,

Rain relief


suffered a bit of a negative USDA revision too, in pricing terms, with upgrades to Canadian and European crop and export hopes, and a cut to the estimate for US shipments.

Professor Good termed the report "negative" for wheat futures, with bearish sentiment looking further compounded by forecasts for wetter weather in southern US areas badly needing rain to wet seed beds for hard red winter wheat sowings.

"The promise of improved moisture later as the week progresses in southern and western Kansas along with Oklahoma has created some additional price pressure on wheat," Mr Holaday noted.

Then factor in mixed external markets, with shares falling in Wall Street and Europe, and the


stronger (both negative for grains) but New York


making ground (a positive) and the corn market had a web of influences worthy of John Le Carre's Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.

Frost on its way

The cocktail looked likely to end in a negative close, before more talk of a US frost this week tipped the balance back towards buyers.

"The midday Models have not backed off the frost threat for the morning of September 14 over North Dakota and September 15 over eastern half of North Dakota, South Dakota all of Minnesota, northern half of Iowa and most of Wisconsin," said.

Corn for December ended 1.2% higher at $7.45 ½ a bushel in Chicago, nearly 20 cents above its intraday low.

That helped Chicago wheat to recover much lost ground too, to finish at $7.27 ¼ a bushel for December (note the widened, and historically unusual, discount to corn), off a low of $7.10 ¼ a bushel.

Soybeans failed, however, to pull out of their doldrums, ending down 2.2% at $13.96 a bushel.

'No longer competitive'

That had implications across the Atlantic too, with the UK grain arm of a major commodities house noting that "


prices in the UK have fallen £5 a tonne today on the back of this".

The weakening euro, which hit a seven-month low against the dollar, helped crops do better in Paris, where rapeseed futures for November dropped a more modest E2.00 a tonne to E447.75 a tone.

Similarly in wheat, while London's November contract dropped 0.6% to £167.40 a tonne, while Paris's equivalent gained 0.6% to E208.00 a tonne.

The fall in the euro "means that UK feed wheat is no longer competitive into Continental homes", the UK grain merchant noted.

Mixed bag

Among softs,


gained 0.4% to 112.29 cents a pound in New York for December delivery, on USDA revision estimates which gave investors half what they had expected.

Sure, the US yield estimate was cut, by 15 pounds per acre to 807 pounds per acre, but the estimate for harvested acreage was raised by 180,000 acres to 9.85m acres.

The overall harvest estimate edged 10,000 bales higher to 16.56m bales.

"Anticipation that the crop production forecast may be lowered due to the two heavy storms that impacted cotton-growing areas in the past month have likely supported prices in the futures market," Rabobank said.

Sugar data



added 0.95 cents to 270.95 cents a pound in New York for December delivery, making it look that Friday's tumble indeed had more to technicalities linked to the options market than underlying fundamentals.



added 1.8% to 29.57 cents a pound for October as investors digested the latest data from Brazilian cane industry group Unica showing output in the country's key Center South district at 2.96m tonnes in the second half of August, near-unchanged year on year, but doing nothing to close the shortfall in output so far in 2011-12.


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