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Evening markets: crops struggle as doubts over prices set in

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OK, grains have had some price-supportive news recently, with the Chinese corn orders, Midwest hot weather threat and the US inventory data on Tuesday which fell short of expectations.

In soft commodities,


has been helped by waning expectations for output from top-ranked producer Brazil, with cane industry group Unica on Wednesday cutting its estimate for the cane crush to 534m tonnes, 6% lower than their first estimate, besides being 4% lower than last year's figure.

But is that now all factored in?

That's the question that farm commodity investors were asking on Thursday and, against a background of some caution, following Moody's warning of a potential downgrade to America's AAA sovereign debt rating, coming up with some less upbeat answers than of late.

'High and overbought'

In sugar, for instance, Nick Penney at Sucden Financial said: "Now that the Unica report is out and its contents known, we may enter a period where the markets will either consolidate or drop on liquidation as upside momentum is reduced.

"It is still very high and overbought.

"One wonders if the attention has been too firmly fixed on one producer," as in Brazil.

Certainly, raw sugar closed weakly in New York, down 4.0% at 29.02 cents a pound for October delivery.

China im

ports to slow?

And, in Chicago,


found it hard going too, even despite some positive export data, with the US weekly export sales of the grain coming in at 1.6m tonnes.

"Export sales were very solid for corn. But that was generally expected," Darrell Holaday at Country Futures said.

And is it to lose a big prop, in terms of Chinese buying?


It is now likely that corn has been pushed beyond Chinese buy levels and continued support will have to come from decrease yield," US Commodities said.

Benson Quinn Commodities said that while the "international consensus is China will import 5m- 10m tonnes of corn over the course of the marketing year, a large percentage of the buying may have been done already".

The weather question

And then there was the squabble over the weather.

"The debate is that the GFS model indicates it will stay in place through July 24-25, but the European and Canadian models indicate it will break down by July 21-22 period," Darrell Holaday at Country Futures said.

"The Midwest has plenty of moisture to withstand the heat over the next week, but if it stretches into the next week, it would begin to trim corn yields."

EU wheat

In the end, Chicago's September contract closed up 0.6% at$ 6.90 ¾ a bushel having spent much of the day in negative territory. And, certainly, the December lot put in a less convincing performance, closing down 0.2% at $56.78 ½ a bushel

And with corn looking a little more vulnerable,


lost a major support, closing down 1.0% at $7.07 a bushel for September.

Wheat faced setbacks on fundamentals from an upgrade to the European Union crop by Strategie Grains, pegging it way above a forecast from the US Department of Agriculture earlier this week.

"Wheat prospects in the EU have improved over the past weeks with production forecasts for the major producers now showing signs of increasing," David Sheppard, managing director of UK grain merchant Gleadell, said.

"With the apparent cheap offers of Russian wheat, this extra EU tonnage should keep markets in check during the short-term as harvest progresses in the northern hemisphere regions."

'Not as bearish'

He added that "long-term the sentiment regarding Australian and Argentine production is not as bearish as first thought".

Dry weather is trimming expectations for Australia's east coast crop, while Argentine sowings estimates are being curbed too, and now look set only to match last year's, grain exchange estimates on Thursday said.

Still, Paris wheat for November closed down 1.6% at E197.75 a tonne, with London wheat for the same month shedding 0.6% to £166.15 a tonne.


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