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Evening markets: corn leads crop slide, as weather improves

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Just as the likes of PotashCorp and Dow Chemical were touting the benefits to profits from high crop prices, as farmers splash out on fertilizer and sprays to maximise yields, investors decided to bail out.

The sell-off, mainly in grains, wasn't all down to changes in the weather outlook for the better, from a farmer's perspective.

US weekly export sales data came in poor, at 349,000 tonnes, less than half some market estimates, with soybean trade, at 143,000 tonnes, and wheat, at 265,000 tonnes, on the soft side.

"The export sales report was negative for corn, prompting ideas of rationing," Darrell Holaday said.

Black Sea sales?

Furthermore, speculation refuses to die that Black Sea countries and in particular Russia - a bargain basement exporter, perhaps the Kmart/ Aldi/ Primark of the grain trade world – are to return to shipments.

"Although there have been muted concerns about the development of wheat crops in the Black Sea region, the trade is concerned that Russia and the Ukraine will be offering new crop wheat to the global market," Benson Quinn Commodities said, noting that Ukraine had already removed export quotas for corn.

The broker also highlighted that soybean crush margins in China, the top importer of the oilseed, "remain weak", offsetting a boost to the oilseed from data showing the US crush at 140.3m bushels last month, at the top end of market forecasts.

And Mr Holaday noted "a lot of fund money going into metal" at grains' expense, although


, for instance, was not that chipper itself, ending marginally lower.

Planting window ahead

But it was weather which was seen at the heart of the falls in crop prices on a day which, with the


tumbling a three-year low as hopes fade of an imminent tightening in US monetary policy, might have been expected to offer a positive note.

A weaker dollar renders assets denominated in it, such as many agricultural commodities, more competitive to buyers in other currencies.

Forecasts raised hopes of a dry spell next week for US farmers to get their corn and soybean sowing plans into action.

Limit down

Sure, the outlook isn't universally benign.

"It is the southern Ohio, southern Illinois, and southern Indiana and the Delta that will struggle with planting. About 15-20% of the Corn Belt will struggle with planting," US Commodities said.

Furthermore, there are concerns about low temperatures, which mean even if crops get into the ground as planned, they may get off to a slow start to growth.

But it was enough to prompt funds to sell an estimated 40,000 corn lots, sending Chicago's July contract down the maximum $0.30 a bushel allowed in a day by Chicago, leading it at $7.29 ¼ a bushel by the close.

The new crop December lot avoided, by the narrowest of margins, a limit-down finish, tumbling 29.75 cents, or 4.5%, to $6.37 ½ a bushel.

Wheat suffers

And that put a further dampener on


too, which was already struggling with its own improved weather forecasts, giving rain to dry areas in China, Europe and the US hard red winter wheat belt.

"Weather is improved in northern Europe and China, which will aid the winter wheat crop," US Commodities said.

Chicago wheat finished 4.3% lower at $7.77 ½ a bushel for the best-traded July contract, with Kansas's [hard red winter] July lot ending down 4.7% at $8.80 a bushel.

Minneapolis spring wheat fell 3.2% to $9.23 ¾ a bushel for July despite the dampness in Canada and the northern US spring wheat districts remaining one weather troublespot.

"The northern plains and Canadian prairies are expected to remain wet with a few opportunities for net drying," Benson Quinn said.

Still for real carnage, try


, which ended down the maximum $0.30 a bushel, or 7.9%, for July at $3.50 a bushel. That's a loss of 14% in three sessions.


notched up a relatively narrow loss of 2.5% to close at $13.53 ½ a bushel for July, gaining some support from that US crush number, and the fact that improved corn sowing prospects lower the likelihood of farmers swithcing to the oilseed, which is later sown.

'Little good news'

Among soft commodities,


extended its correction, albeit recovering many of its early losses - which took it to a six-month low of 21.94 cents a pound for July delivery - to end at 22.51 cents a pound, down 2.0%, in New York.

"The path of least resistance in the chart seems to be lower, with new lows looking likely, and the bulls need to see the market back above 23 cents a pound sooner rather than later," Thomas Kujawa at Sucden Financial said.

He added: "The newswires have little good news for the bulls, it seems, with increasing talk of good Thai, Indian and Brazil crop prospects within the sugar story."




had a flier, jumping 3.5% in New York for July delivery to close at a one-month finishing high of $3,280 a tonne, amid talk of short-covering.

At PitGuru, Jurgens Bauer said that it looked like sales in cocoa "were overdone", with short covering lifting prices above key resistance level, and so providing further support.

Indeed, speaking before the close, he said that a finish for the July contract above $3,235 a tonne would be a strong technical pointed, and "the market may see further upside".


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