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Evening markets: corn rally wounded in US-China trade spat

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Kirk calling enterprise.

Ron Kirk this was, the US trade representative (USTR). And the enterprise was of the US poultry kind, and its apparently unfair treatment by China in the export market.

Mr Kirk said he was seeking talks with Beijing over, apparently unwarranted, anti-dumping measures which block some 90% of poultry exports to China.

Phasers were activated, and it was the rally in

corn

futures - on hopes for Chinese buying - which got caught in the cross-fire.

"Almost on cue, just as corn completes an almost $1-per-bushel retreat and finds a pricing point that allows for the potential to profitably export cargoes to China, in steps the USTR and picks a political fight with the Chinese government," Darren Dohme at PowerLine Group said.

"Left in the fray are producer, corn farmers and end users who now have to add even more volatility into their pricing/hedging decisions.

"While we saw a bounce in overnight values for Chicago corn futures, we have yet to see much in the way of follow through action on the part of the large commodity and hedge funds."

'$10 a bushel corn'

And it was not as if investors could find any substance behind rumours of China buying 4m-5m tonnes of corn which rejuvenated the market on Monday and in early deals on Tuesday.

Sure the dynamics made sense, given record high prices which prompted Beijing to announce the sale of 3.7m tonnes of the grain from state inventories.

"Values are profitable to import at these levels. Corn in some regions of China are near $10 a bushel," US Commodities said.

But, as Darrell Holaday at broker Country Futures noted, "despite rumours of some Chinese interest in corn, there has not been any real confirmation of any purchases and the overall export market is described as very slow".

"There was technical buying yesterday at the lows and some commercial interest developed, but that has not been carried forward," Mr Holaday said.

External tailwinds

OK, US crop condition data out overnight was helpful to corn price, flagging damage to last week's frost, notably in Minnesota.

And signals from external markets showed green, with

share

markets shrugging off the latest downgrade to a eurozone credit rating, by Standard & Poor's to Italy, and the

dollar

easing, so helping the competitiveness of dollar-denominated assets on export markets.

Brent

crude

gained 1.3% to retake $110 a barrel, helping the commodities sector overall add 0.4%.

But, with agricultural commodities in a phase of greater independence from world markets, that was not enough of a help to corn.

With harvest pressure also telling, Chicago's benchmark December contract ended down 0.2% at its day low (and one-month closing low) of $6.90 ¼ a bushel.

Ukraine dry too?

And that put the dampener on other markets too.

Wheat

closed up 0.3% at $6.74 ½ a bushel for December, narrowing some of its discount to corn, but finishing some 2% below an intraday high helped by waning hopes for winter wheat sowings in the southern US, spreading to parts of the former Soviet Union too.

"Dry conditions continue to plague winter wheat planting in the southern plains and stories are circulating about less than-ideal-planting conditions in the Ukraine," Benson Quinn Commodities said.

European wheat showed small gains too, adding 0.3% in London, to £159.50 a tonne for November delivery, and 0.2% to E196.00 a tonne in Paris, where some of the joy at victory for French wheat in a 450,000-tonne Algerian wheat order wore off.

"As they only tend to buy French, this is not a sign of European Union competitiveness on the world market," the UK grain arm of a major commodities house said.

'Still have harvest ahead'

Chicago

soybeans

ended up 0.2% at $13.38 a bushel for November, 12 cents off their day high, despite support here from a US export sale of 120,000 tonnes of the oilseed, announced through the US Department of Agriculture's daily reporting system.

Still, soybeans have harvest pressure to deal with too.

"The one problem with a big soybean rally just yet is we still have harvest ahead," Matthew Pierce, GrainAnalyst.com trader, said.

"There is a major round of hedging the market has to deal with which will temper basis and thus any rally."

'Rainfall too late'

In New York,

cotton

fell back too ending, at 105.41 cents a pound for December, down nearly 2 cents from its day high, albeit off only a modest 0.1% on the day.

Which was a creditable performance, given a close down the daily limit in the last session.

Commerzbank highlighted the one-point drop, to a meagre 27%, in the proportion of the US cotton crop rated in "good" or "excellent" condition in overnight USDA data.

"Rainfall in Texas should be too late to make much of a difference to the cotton crop currently being harvested," the bank said, adding that it saw "the current price weakness as a temporary phenomenon".

'Potential to lose another $250-$400 per tonne'

Elsewhere among softs,

cocoa

staged a bounce after closing near its one-year low in the last session, adding 0.5% to $2,730 a tonne for New York's December contract – albeit potentially only for technical reasons.

"Cocoa has been oversold," softs trader Jurgens Bauer said.

Fundamentally, "while it is expected that next year's crops will be smaller there are still large available supplies on hand", he added.

And Judith Ganes-Chase, at J Ganes Consulting, dug the knife in deeper, suggesting that while "the 2011-12 crop may not be nearly as large [as 2010-11], with stocks shooting up this season by over 350,000 tonnes and the demand outlook appearing grimmer, it will be difficult for the market to swing to a deficit unless there is a major weather issue.

"So far the weather has been good to very good, just not exceptional.

"The cocoa market has the potential to lose another $250-$400 per tonne from current prices if it appears 2011-12 arrivals will be even part-way respectable in size early on."

'Little in turmoil'

Sugar

was more mixed, closing its bull spread, with the October contract shedding 0.9% to 27.59 cents a pound, while the March lot added 0.3% to 26.79 cents a pound.

"The market seems a little in turmoil following recent Brazil crop predictions, then revisions and then re-revisions, and obviously Friday night's correction on a re-revision resulting in bearish correction to finish the week," Thomas Kujawa at Sucden Financial said.

"The conjecture around the market remains on Brazil and rumours of the best cane left till last and talk of further revisions back towards a larger crop than previous re revised.

"Overall, we hear demand is such that physical premiums are softening and the northern hemisphere crops are progressing."

By Agrimoney.com

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