Are agricultural commodities returning to funds' good books?
Paul Georgy at broker Allendale questioned the idea, noting "many concerns that the trend-following fund community is going to continue to shift capital away from investment in agriculture products".
Still, "while these concerns are real, I believe the bulk of the fund selling of late has been the result of the downward momentum". Ie, on technical grounds.
And there were thoughts of the technical picture beginning to look a lot more favourable, following some resilience in, notably
In soybeans themselves, for instance, "technically, if the January contract close above $11.92 a bushel today, it would signal bottoming action and a move through the technical downtrend", Darrell Holaday at Country Futures said.
The contract did, adding 1.9%, a third successive positive close, to finish at $12.00 ¼ a bushel.
"Technically things are turning [on soybeans] so watch if you are holding any short positions," GrainAnalyst.com trader Matthew Pierce said.
There is plenty of scope for investors to lift net long exposure to soybeans, with US regulatory data overnight showing that speculators had sold down their net longs below 28,300 contracts, the lowest in more than a year, and below a total approaching 200,000 contracts over the summer.
And the same regulatory data did show funds continuing to add net length, albeit hardly rapidly, from a low a month ago, while a survey by BofA Merrill Lynch showed commodities at least out of portfolio managers' bad books, helped by waning fears for China's economy.
Whatever, many commodities found significant headway even while some risk assets, such as
The average raw material rose 0.9%, as measured by the CRB index.
And many agricultural commodities far outpaced that, with soybeans being just one.
The oilseed had fundamental reasons to rise, beyond any chart considerations, with the rumours of Chinese buying still rife, if doubted by Mr Pierce.
"I have heard nothing from the Gulf or my commercial contacts. The lack of internal sales in China does not support the bias of bean demand," he said.
"China failing to sell their weekly allotment of beans for two weeks and Brazil sitting on a cheaper pile than the US makes the demand scenario weak at best."
But Oil World disagreed, saying China was on the cusp of a new wave of soybean imports, set to rebound from a seven-month low in October.
That said, many of the orders will go to South America rather than the US.
Where the analysis group put in unequivocally good news for US soybean growers was in saying that high corn prices are prompting many farmers to opt for the grain over the oilseed, even at the last minute.
"The soybean production in Argentina and Brazil may indeed be decimated by a larger-than-expected shift of acreage from soybeans to corn," Oil World said.
And some South American weather concerns are popping up too, with the outlook "non-threatening but on the watch list", Iowa-based broker US Commodities said.
"Below-average precipitation is forecast in south Brazil and central Argentina."
The grains couldn't match soybeans on the fundamental score, although South Korea's Major Feedmill Group did buy 180,000 tonnes of
And Chicago corn had some technicals going for it too, with the December contract managing to breach its 30-day moving average, at $6.41 a bushel, and stay there.
The lot closed up 1.9% at $6.45 ½ a bushel its first positive finish in five sessions, and supported by a rash of buy orders towards the close.
The December lot ended up 2.8% at $6.32 ¾ a bushel.
As further support, the moisture disappeared from the weather outlook for the southern Plains, where hard red winter wheat seedlings remain in a historically poor state, even if improving a touch week on week, according to US Department of Agriculture data out overnight.
"The lack of rains over the western half of the hard red winter wheat region is now a pattern no-one can deny," Mr Pierce said.
"After the rains last week there is no chance for the next three weeks. Top soil moisture levels are fading quickly due to winds leeching out the beneficial moisture."
Kansas hard red winter wheat itself added 1.9% to $7.05 a bushel for December delivery.
And European lots made smaller gains, with Paris wheat added 1.1% to E185.00 a tonne, losing out on some gains because of its earlier close compared with Chicago, the global benchmark, which enjoyed that late rally.
"European grain prices have risen slightly today in slow light trade on the back of mainly a weakening euro against the dollar," UK grain merchants at a major European commodities house said.
In London, feed wheat for May, the best-traded lost, eased 0.3% to £151.25 a tonne despite the weakening pound, and data showing a pickup in UK exports.
Among soft commodities, New York
"Chartists hold out Andrews pitch fork views are still up," soft commodities trader Jurgens Bauer said, referring to a much-watched chart analysis technique involving three parallel trendlines.
And this when, as Lynette Tan at Phillip Futures noted, of "global supplies of finer grades of coffee have been tight, putting a firm floor under coffee futures prices".
However, New York raw
"Late last week there was good trade support and end user buying, possibly in anticipation of buying tenders from Egypt and Pakistan over the weekend," Nick Penney at Sucden Financial said.
"There has been no news on the latter and the former has postponed its tender for 50,000-80,000 tonnes to next weekend, seeking lower prices."
Technically, the March contract "is still locked in a rough 25-26 cents-a-pound range, but is coming close to breaking down on the downside".
"Yesterday's was the first settlement below 25 cents, and the market looks tired of waiting for news to support it."