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Evening markets: crops hurt as funds head for exit

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US crops closed lower for a third day as the flight by investors to safety once again drove the dollar higher and cut funds' appetite for all but the safest investments.

Wheat fell back below $5 a bushel in Chicago.

Financial markets were spooked in particular by data showing that new houses in the US fell by a surprise 3.6% September, the first decline since March.

The dollar gained against most currencies bar the yen, strengthening to $1.4726 against the euro, as investors returned to a safe haven against stormy economic times.

Sure, this made US exports, including farm commodities, more expensive. That was one reason for their decline, along with that of oil – a lead indicator for crops, many of which are use in making biofuels. New York crude was 2.7% down at 19:00 GMT.

'Fundamentals less important'

But sentiment played a strong role in driving investors to the exit. Funds, which sold 4,000 soybean contracts, 5,000 wheat contracts and 8,000 corn lots on Tuesday, continued the theme.

"Funds have been sellers of roughly 3,000 wheat, 5,000 corn and 4,000 beans so far today," Vic Lespinasse, at GrainAnalyst, said with some two hours of trading to go.

US Commodities, the Iowa broker, said: "The market is now busy taking the risk premium out of the market."

For Europe, French consultancy Agritel chipped in: "Profit taking has accelerated in the US wheat market.

"Technical and financial elements [are leading] agricultural prices while fundamentals are less important."

Indeed, there was little around in the way of market-moving fundamental news, although FCStone is due later on Wednesday to release updated crop forecasts, US Commodities said.

Wheat injured

In pricing terms, wheat once again led the decline, closing down 1.7% at $4.94 ¾ a bushel for December delivery.

That was its first sub-$5 a bushel close for nearly two weeks, and took its losses since Friday's intraday high to 14%. Quite something in a little over three trading days.

Soybeans lost 5 cents to $9.68 ½ a bushel, taking its losses on the same criteria to all of 6%. But then it never had quite the autumn rally that the grains did.

Corn scratched

Indeed, it appeared surprising that corn did relatively well, ending down 1.75 cents at $3.69 a bushel for December delivery. That took its losses to the rout to 11%.

That may be because sellers have already done the business.

Commerzbank said: "During the past week, net-long positions in corn reached the highest level since mid-June. We assume that a large number of those long positions have now been closed."

European wheats were relatively resolute too, with Paris's November contract ending down 1.75 cents at $3.69 ½ a tonne, and its London feed peer down £1.25 at £100.50 a tonne.

The weaker euro and sterling gave these contracts some protection.

Juice succumbs

Among softs, sugar fared the worst from the fund exit, with New York's March contract ending down 0.72 cents, 3%, at 21.93 cents a pound, its lowest close since October 12.

Its London white sugar equivalent fared nearly as badly, losing 2.0% to $558.7 a tonne.

Cocoa managed sub-1% declines on both sides of the Atlantic.

And this time, even orange juice got hit, ending down 1.25 cents at $1.1205 a pound for November delivery, its first negative close of the week.


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