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Evening markets: crops stage sprint finish

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Agricultural commodities sprinted towards the week's finishing line, helped by waxing hopes for economic recovery and a slew of, generally helpful, data.

Against a backdrop of promising US jobs data and spurting oil – New York was 2.2% higher at $57.97 a barrel and Brent up 2.2% at $57.72 at 17:30 GMT – it was difficult for crops to remain quiet, although not impossible.

Palm oil managed, with the July contract closing just 5 ringgit higher at 2,685 a tonne in Malaysia, with the prospect of a string of statistics next week on production, exports and stocks keeping a lid on sentiment.

However, Chicago grains didn't, with a weaker dollar providing yet another tailwind.

Cold in Kiev

Wheat got the best of it, spurred also by data from the Kansas crop tour estimating lower production this year thanks to a range of crop afflictions.

Meanwhile, more showers are expected after the weekend in US spring wheat districts attempting to get their crop in the ground and Ukraine did its bit by providing rumours of freeze damage. According to some traders this is limited, however, just to a region Mykolayiv which is but a small player in the Ukraine wheat production.

Chicago May wheat spurted 3.2% to $5.77 ¼ a bushel – the best for a nearest contract since January - and forward contracts did their best to keep up. July added 2.9% to $5.86 ¾ a bushel and, looking far ahead, December 2010 was 2.4% higher at $6.93 ½ a bushel.

London wheat followed suit, up £2.50 a tonne for May, which closed at £117.50 a tonne, and most forward contracts too. Paris wheat for August 2010 added E3.o00 to E164.25 to extend its lead over nearer term contracts, with August 2009 adding E2.00 to E150.00 a tonne.

Planting data

Chicago corn, meanwhile, was helped by data from Informa pegging US crop area at 83.9m acres, up from the last estimate of 81.4m acres but still below the official US figure of 85m acres. Furthermore, doubts remain about planting progress for this season's crop.

May corn added 2.0% to $4.12 ½ a bushel, with July up 1.9% at $4.19 ¾ a bushel.

Informa's report was not quite so helpful for soybeans, estimating plantings at 78.3m acres, above the official 76m acre figure. Nonetheless, beans caught a bit of the favourable breeze to add 0.5% to $11.24 ¾ a bushel for May and 0.3% to $11.05 ¼ a bushel for July delivery.

Pigs fly

Pigs, too, sailed higher, putting further distance between them and that flu. June hogs took on 1.7% to 67.875 cents a pound with the July contract up 1.1% at 70.450 cents a pound.

The processed article did even better. July pork bellies shot 2.8% higher to 80.600 cents a pound, albeit remaining below pre-flu levels.

Cocoa was among the best performers among softs, adding £9 to £1,744 a tonne for London's July contract, with the weak dollar helping New York's equivalent spurt $48 to $2,510 a tonne.

Traders credited the rise to technical buying – the fundamentals still look bearish, with production apparently promising and demand weak.

Sugar, however, party pooped, slipping 1.2% to 15.30 cents a pound for New York's July contract, with traders mulling whether an increase in Indian plantings may help it out of its demand hole.

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