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Evening markets: crop futures echo broad market paradoxes

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Palm oil

gained, but


fell. Minneapolis


gained, but Chicago wheat tumbled. New York


closed up 1.7%, but its London peer finished marginally lower.

It was a difficult day for investors to negotiate. And not just in agricultural commodities, with


gaining in New York and Paris, but finishing lower in Frankfurt and London, while New York


soared 3% above $102 a barrel, to its highest since June, while Brent crude dropped 0.7% below $112 a barrel.

Some of these had relatively easy explanations, such as the oil spread, which reflected a plan to reverse a US pipeline, and find homes for a glut of oil locked at Cushing, in Oklahoma.

However, much seemed in line with a mixed day on financial markets, in which further promising US data on industrial production and mortgage applications, following upbeat retail sales figures on Tuesday, clashed with continued jitters over the eurozone crisis.

Yields on Italian 10-year bonds once again rose, temporarily, above 7%, ticking up on French and Spanish sovereign debt too in a sign of investor jitters.

'Big rains'

Spread over the top were the usual melange of technical factors, such as the fall back below nine and 20-day moving averages which spurred selling in Chicago wheat.

That and fears for demand, with Benson Quinn Commodities flagging that "Syria passed on tender for 100,000 tonnes of soft wheat due to high prices".

And, on the supply side, hopes improved for drought-hit winter wheat seedlings in the southern US Plains, with "rain added to the eight-to-14 day forecast", US Commodities noted.

Indeed, talked of "big rains hitting the lower Plains on November 22".

"Models have increased the rains over the western half of the lower Plains, the Texas and Oklahoma panhandle and southwest Oklahoma" in the November 21-25 timescale, albeit to a not-so-big half an inch.

And this pattern "may get locked in", bringing a "decent rain event on November 26 as a cold front moves through the lower Plains and another one on November 28 or 29".

'Well supported'

Indeed, while Chicago wheat for December dropped 2.5% to $6.165 ¾ a bushel for December delivery, Kansas hard red winter wheat did even worse, falling 2.6% to $6.87 a bushel.

Minneapolis wheat gained 0.2% to $9.33 ½ a bushel for December, and 0.9% to $8.90 a bushel for March delivery.

But then, high protein wheats are in demand, as Cargill noted, in increasing prices at pools for high protein wheat run by its AWB Australian grain handling division, by up to Aus$27 a tonne.

"Globally high protein wheats remain well supported as customers react to the news about declining wheat protein profile in Australia and are now looking to lock in supplies," AWB's Jon White said.

And, as US Commodities said, "parts of Australia are too wet to harvest", implying quality threats too.

US vs Ukraine


posted a more modest decline, gaining some support from the strong oil price (some 40% of the US corn crop is used to make bioethanol).

Indeed, data showed a rise of 5,000 barrels a day to 916,000 barrels a day in ethanol production last week, signalling higher corn consumption, although with a rise in US stocks of the biofuel too, by 700,000 barrels to 17.1m barrels.

And a purchase by Japan, the world's biggest corn exporter, of more of the grain from Ukraine was hardly encouraging for prices in the US, which is usually the daddy on this trade route.

"Traditional US corn buyers continue to shift demand to cheaper Ukraine supplies," Benson Quinn Commodities said

Funds sold an estimated 5,000 contracts in Chicago corn, helping the December lot finish 0.4% lower at $6.42 ¾ a bushel.

'Weather near ideal'



lost 1.0% to $11.87 ¾ a bushel for January, ending a three-day winning streak, as the long-rumoured Chinese purchases failed to materialise on the US Department of Agriculture 's daily reporting system.

"Unnamed sources are saying China did indeed buy six cargoes of US soybean over the weekend but still nothing from USDA daily reporting to confirm this," Benson Quinn said.

And even if true, "this new demand is viewed as traditional sales that would not impact US balance sheets".

Furthermore, "weather in South America near ideal for getting a crop started", Paul Georgy at Allendale said.

A bit too wet, perhaps, with talk now of fears for rust in northern Brail.

Fibre strengthens

Among the soft commodities, New York


managed to maintain its upward climb, for December delivery at least, adding 0.8% to 103.50 cents a pound.

Besides talk of a trade house ready to take delivery in the expiry process, closing of short positions ahead of that even are been seen as behind the rise.

Signally, the March contract, which closed the last session up the exchange limit, finished 0.1% lower at 100.48 cents a pound, taking some fright at talk that while China may stockpile, such buying will be long postponed, with the domestic harvest beckoning.

'Very distant prospect'

But New York raw


dropped 1.2% to 24.46 cents a pound for March, as long-awaited demand from importing countries failed again to turn up.

"Unfortunately for the bulls, the end users seem to be sitting on their hands," Nick Penney at Sucden Financial said.

And New York


for March finished 1.5% lower at 239.05 cents a pound, as investors took profits following a 7% rally since the start of the month.

"The rally in past days is probably on news that rainfall in major growing areas of Brazil is well below the long-term average," Commerzbank said, adding that "signals from Colombia are not very encouraging either, with the crop volume in October being 19% lower, year-on-year".

"Even so, the new Brazilian crop will be from a high-yield year in the two-year cycle and this should prevent prices from breaking out strongly to the upside in our view.

"Prices close to 291 US cents a pound that we saw in the late summer are probably a very distant prospect."


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