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Evening markets: data prospects lift soy - at corn's expense

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So, Thursday's big reports are going to be better for

soybean

prices than

corn

values?

Investors seem to think so, extending in the last live trading session before the US Department of Agriculture's much-anticipated reports on US crop sowings and inventories a sell corn, buy soybeans trade.

On seedings, "the market is braced for a bullish acres number on soybeans and a slightly negative acre number on corn," US Commodities said.

In figures, an estimate of US sowings this year of below 77m acres for soybeans would be supportive to prices of the oilseed, the broker said. For corn, a figure of more than 93m acres would be a depressant.

Quality factor

On US crop inventories, as measured for March 1, the concern among corn investors is that a better-quality crop, blessed by high weights per bushel (which is a measure of volume), means that livestock farmers and ethanol plants might have been able to achieve their aims with less of the grain than had been thought.

"Test weights last year across the Midwest were large," US Commodities said.

"Shrinkage over the winter has been historically low on corn. This equals to more corn, which will be reflected in the feed and residual numbers." Ie less use than might be expected, and greater stocks.

The result was a poor day for corn, down 1.5% at $6.63 ¼ a bushel for May delivery, while soybeans for the same month added 0.8% to $13.72 a bushel, a three-week high for a spot contract.

New crop dynamics

At least new crop corn was not trounced quite so heavily, falling a more modest 0.8% to $5.95 ¼ a bushel for December delivery. New crop soybeans, for November, rose 0.7% to $13.63 ½ a bushel, also a three-week high.

But then there are some concerns that, whatever corn plantings number the USDA comes out with on Thursday, it may not all get sown, given the poor weather prospects.

"The northern Corn Belt remains wet and cool. This is slowing fieldwork and will build in importance day by day from here forward," the broker said.

Weather offers some protection

Corn dragged on fellow grain

wheat

too, which fell 1.4% to $7.26 a bushel in Chicago for May delivery, although Kansas contracts were supported a little by those lingering fears of drought damage on the hard red winter wheat it trades.

The Kansas May lot eased 0.6% to $8.62 a bushel.

And Minneapolis (spring) wheat for May got a lift from those spring seeding concerns, easing 0.3% to $8.86 a bushel for May.

European contracts, meanwhile, had the headwinds of a firmer euro, on comments from European Central Bank policymaker Lorenzo Bini Smaghi seen as suggesting a succession of interest rate rises, and of some rain for some the region's own dry winter crops.

Paris's May lot fell 1.7% to E236.50 a tonne.

'More rationing needed'

Its London equivalent eased 0.7% to £199.900 a tonne, received some support at least from an analysis by the UK's Home Grown Cereals Authority of data showing the extent of the squeeze in domestic supplies, following a roaring start to 2010-11 for exports.

"The latest balance sheet update sheds some light on some areas where a response has been seen – for example, some reduction in wheat usage by feed compounders in exchange for other products has occurred," the authority said.

"However, it is clear that more of a reaction is needed for 'the numbers to add up' and for the UK to carry-over a sustainable amount of wheat into the new 2011-12 season."

Outside forces

But what would soft commodities do?

Would they follow grains lower, and present a pretty united front of agricultural commodities?

Or would they rise, following external markets, which in general had something of a "risk-on" day, on firm US jobs data, with ADP saying private sector businesses had created 201,000 posts this month.

Wall Street shares were up 0.7-0.8% in late deals. And the dollar was a little easier too (notably against the stronger euro), improving the case for buying dollar-denominated assets, such as many crops.

'Bears in charge'

The answer was a bit of both. Cocoa followed up the last session's plunge in heavy trading with a smaller fall in heavy trading, with New York's May contract falling 2.3% to a two-month low of $2,987 a tonne.

London cocoa for the same month dropped 2.7% to £1,943 a tonne.

The catalyst for the sales has been the progress in Ivory Coast, the top producing country, of forces loyal to Alassane Ouattara, the would-be democratically-elected president, backed by the UN, who is seeking to eject incumbent Laurent Gbagbo.

Technical factors are viewed as negative too, with New York's May lot remaining below its 200-day average of around $3,040 a tonne.

"The bears are in charge," Jurgens Bauer at PitGuru said.

'Stuck in a range'

However,

sugar

put in at least a resolute day, edging 0.2% to 27.21 cents in New York for May delivery,

"At the moment we seem stuck in a range below 28 cents a pound and above 26 cents a pound and these levels are probably going to provide the key technical breakout point," Thomas Kujawa at Sucden Financial.

Coffee

gained 1.3% to 264.80 cents a pound in New York, lifted by, with economic fears receding, a return of the idea of strong demand for the beans helping foster a further squeeze in supplies.

By Agrimoney.com

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