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Evening markets: corn estimates make bad commodity day worse

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It would probably have been a poor day for agricultural commodity futures anyway, given what was happening in external markets.

Those Greek debt fears re-emerged to send the euro tanking and lever the


higher, up 1.0% against a basket of currencies in late deals.

And that reduced the attractions to buyers of dollar-denominated assets, such as commodities, besides tweaking investor nerves struggling to repair following last week's raw materials sell-off.


tumbled 5% back below $100 a barrel in New York, and some cited falling Chinese industrial production too in a 2.4% fall in London



'Awfully tight'

But the US Department of Agriculture data only made things worse. Sure, the first USDA's first estimates, in its benchmark Wasde report, for 2011-12 crop dynamics were hardly universally bearish.

They forecast, for instance, small declines in both US and world





And the 160m-bushel estimate for US soybean stocks at the close of 2011-12 was "awfully tight for the very first number for a crop year", Darrell Holaday at Country Futures said.

"They still represent tight balance sheets, and the downside on these numbers will be limited", longer term.

'Time bomb'

But the killer was


, for which the USDA lifted its estimate for US inventories at the close of this season by 55m bushels, citing weaker exports, and forecast a further rise, of some 170m bushels to 900m bushels in 2011-12 too.

Investors, who had forecast that number at 808m bushels, were not universally impressed.

Matthew Pierce termed the estimates "shocking", dismissing them as "another ploy by the US government to curtail prices helping curb inflation".

"I believe this is a time bomb that will go off if the US does not get the crop in the ground in the next two weeks," he said.

Sure, drier weather is allowing some catch-up on sowings, but "massive flooding along the Mississippi" river, which peaked in Memphis just below 48 feet, and eight inches short of its record, "shows the flooding persists and remains a major problem for planting all over the central US".

"If the trade feels this is over, they are sorely mistaken."

Losers, and bigger losers

However, investors traded the numbers in front of them, besides the strong dollar, which meant sending July corn down the maximum daily limit in Chicago of $0.30 a bushel, to $6.7 ¼ a bushel.

The spot May contract, freed of limits by the expiry process, tumbled 37.25 cents, or 5.3%, to $6.68 ¾ a bushel, the weakest finish since the end of March. Funds sold an estimated 20,000 corn contracts.

Chicago wheat for July was dragged 5.0% lower to $7.59 a bushel, with a forecast of plummeting exports doing the damage, besides losses in fellow grain corn.

And soybeans for July dipped 0.7% to $13.31 ¾ a bushel although, intriguingly, the new crop November lot was held up by the forecasts of a tight balance sheet next season, shedding only 0.5 cents to $13.21 a bushel.

European grains also showed some resilience, supported by continuing concerns over dryness, besides the weaker euro, with Paris's best-traded November lot closing down a modest 0.8% at E227.00 a tonne, nearly E6 above its low for the day.

London's November lot lost 1.9% to £175.65 a tonne.

'On the ropes'

Nor were soft commodity futures immune.


futures' tracing of their 2010 rebound went off course with a 4.3% slump to 20.94 cents a pound in New York for July delivery.

"If it was a boxing match the bear corner would seem to have the bulls on the ropes," Thomas Kujawa at Sucden Financial said.



continued slippage, closing down 3.3% at 273.15 cents a pound for July, with a rebound in stocks held by the New York Ice exchange (not only in the US) easing concerns over supplies.

Also note there a technical issue on the horizon, with June options expiring on Friday, a factor which often feeds through to futures market volatility.

Lone survivor

Orange juice

futures, however, which put some resistance against last week's sell-off, did the same again, with the USDA lowering its estimate for America's all-orange crop by 1% to 8.82m tonnes.

"In Florida, fruit size is projected to be below average while droppage is projected to be above average," both negative factors for farmers.

New York's July contract added 0.8% to 172.00 cents a pound.


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