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Evening markets: data prospect shelters corn, soy from storm

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Anybody home in Chicago?

External markets witnessed their customary mayhem on Wednesday, although this time with a twist in that New York

crude

, up nearly 4% in late deals above $82 a barrel, supported by data showing a decline in US oil inventories, charged the opposite way to stocks.

New York's Dow Jones Industrial Average was 2.9% lower in late deals following declines on other share markets, which saw London's FTSE 100 index close down 3.1%, amid fears for exposure of eurozone banks, and particularly French ones, to the region's debt problems.

France's Cac index plunged 5.5%.

Unusual situation

But in grain markets, the mood was altogether different.

"It has probably been the most stagnant price movement that we have seen in weeks," Darrell Holaday at Country Futures said.

At PitGuru, Matthew Pierce said: "Commodities are actually the 'stable' option right now as compared with equities and energies. How odd is that?"

Chicago

corn

for December ended flat at $6.88 ½ a bushel, with the best-traded

soybean

lot, November, adding all of 1.75 cents, albeit important ones, to drag the contract back above $13 a bushel, to $13.01 ½ a bushel.

Volumes were weak too.

Demand hopes

It wasn't that the day was bereft of news.

South Korean feed groups bought 55,000 tonnes of US corn, indicating that demand hasn't gone away even after the dent to sentiment wrought by August so far.

That goes for domestic demand too. US production of ethanol last week, at 98,000 barrels a day, was up 40,000 barrels a day week on week, meaning bigger consumption of corn by biofuel plants.

In soybeans, Chinese customs data showed the country's imports of the oilseed soared 24% last month to 5.35m tonnes, the best figure of 2011 so far.

The import rise is likely to reflect, besides the lifting of price caps on cooking oil, "soybean meal demand for the expanding pork industry with pork prices having risen markedly this year", Sudakshina Unnikrishnan at Barclays Capital said.

Pork price inflation in July remained at 57%, as Chinese farmers seek to rebuild herds even amid a time of soaring demand for the meat.

'A market mover'

However, the mood was nervous ahead of a US Department of Agriculture Wasde crop report on Thursday which has been anticipated for weeks, largely for its estimate of how much damage last month's US heatwave wrought on corn and soybeans, at a time of already-thin stocks.

"The report tomorrow is a market mover," US Commodities said, noting that, on average, August Wasde reports cause a swing of $0.24 a bushel in corn futures on the day, and $0.41 a bushel in soybeans.

For

wheat

, the briefing is viewed as less crucial, causing an average move of $0.14 a bushel, with much of the US crop already in the barn by now.

'Still some optimism'

And, indeed, the grain managed movement denied its peers, in an upward direction too, helped by its newly-rediscovered competitiveness against Russian wheat on export markets.

"There is still some optimism regarding wheat exports and that has supported wheat today," Mr Holaday said.

Furthermore, while some dry southern US wheat areas have received much-needed rain, the western wheat areas received nothing", leaving winter wheat growers facing the prospect of poor soil conditions for planting.

And the Rosario Grain Exchange pegged Argentina's wheat crop at 12.5m tonnes, lower than the current USDA forecast of 15m tonnes, taking some of the sting out of another upgrade for the French crop, this time from official farm bureau FranceAgriMer.

Big tender

There was also evidence of demand in wheat, with Saudi Arabia tendering for 660,000 tonnes of hard wheat.

Chicago (soft red winter) wheat for September added 2.0% to $6.85 a bushel, while Kansas (hard red winter) wheat for the same month closed up 2.9% at $7.85 a bushel.

Minneapolis hard red spring wheat gained 2.5% to $8.37 ¼ a bushel.

In Europe, Paris wheat for November added 0.8% to E195.00 a tonne, with London's November lot gaining 0.8% to £162.00 a tonne.

More data

Cotton

, for which the Wasde is also considered likely to prove market moving, managed to show greater direction, closing up 2.1% at 95.76 cents a pound for the benchmark December lot.

The rise was attributed to investors with short positions taking profit ahead of a report which could cut the US crop estimate considerably – although there are other considerations to factor in.

"We have US production at 15.5m bales, down 500,000 bales, from the July report. Yet, we expect exports to shrink 900,000 bales to 11.20m bales," Keith Brown at Georgia-based brokerage Keith Brown & Co said.

For raw

sugar

, a close up a modest 0.5% at 27.62 cents, in New York, for October delivery, belied a reasonably volatile day, with the lot trading over a range of some 5%.

Movement was instilled by positioning ahead of data from Unica, the cane industry body, on Thursday.

'Bottoming effort is close'

And New York

coffee

for September continued a creep higher, by all but 0.1 cents to 234.85 cents, helped by lower exchange inventories and lingering fears for more frost in Brazil growing areas.

"Coffee prices have also been under pressure as traders seem reluctant to take on aggressive positions," Jurgens Bauer at PitGuru said.

"But with Ice [exchange] stocks at historically low levels, and Friday's freeze scare, there are many waiting for a bottom to be confirmed.

"Lord knows there are many sharp experienced traders considering a bottoming effort is close."

By Agrimoney.com

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