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Evening markets: dollar dip helps softs, but grains struggle

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By rights, Thursday should have been a flier for many agricultural commodities.

Not only was there a more upbeat air around in financial markets, helping shares close 1.2% higher in London 2.5% higher in Frankfurt and Paris.

Notably, the "risk-on" feel was accompanied by an especially weak


as was fitting when much of the optimism stemmed from hopes for the latest twist in the Greek debt deal being sorted, with some 75% of private holders of bonds reportedly in favour of the necessary restructuring.

And a weak dollar makes assets denominated in it less expensive as exports.

"With the dollar weakening against the Euro on hopes that the Greek debt restructuring agreement would come into fruition, the background became more positive," Nick Penney at Sucden Financial's


desk said.

Hot cocoa

Commodities in general managed to make some use of the following wind, adding 0.6%, as measured by the CRB index.

Many soft commodities were among them. Indeed,


enjoyed one of its periodic short-covering spasms, sending New York's May contract up 5.2% at $2,395 a tonne.

The rise was seen as helped by technical factors, after the close of the last session below the 50-day moving average failed to incite further selling.

Instead, the contract worked its way back up through the 50-day, 14-day and 100-day moving averages.

Sugar delays

Even New York


managed to recover from its 16-month low of the last session to end up 0.4% at 189.40 cents a pound for May delivery.

Raw sugar for May ended 0.2% higher at 23.96 cents a pound, amid ideas that the delay to the start of the Brazilian cane harvest may be longer than the 10 days which has been indicated up to now.

"Reports out of Centre South Brazil suggest that in some areas the harvest may begin up to a month later due to dry weather since rains were last registered in January," Mr Penney said,

The spread between May and July contracts "reflects this and this spread may widen further".

Indeed, the July lot ended lower, by 0.4% to 22.98 cents a pound.

Big exports

But Chicago crops struggled to make much use of the tumbling greenback, amid nerves ahead of much-watched data.



for May ended up 0.5% at $13.38 ½ a bushel, boosted by a storming weekly US weekly export sales figure, as revealed by the US Department of Agriculture.

"Soybean sales far exceeded trade's estimates at 1.66m tonnes, combined old and new crop," Benson Quinn Commodities said.

And this at a sensitive time, with the USDA set on Friday to unveil its latest Wasde crop report, in which estimates for South America's dryness-tested crops are particularly keenly anticipated.

"Trade estimates for Friday's soybean US ending stocks are now starting to drop on higher export outlook," Benson Quinn added.

'Struggled to move product'

A cut by Conab, the Brazilian crop bureau, to its estimate for the domestic soybean crop received a more mixed reception, being a downgrade, but not by too much, from 69.2m tonnes to 68.75m tonnes.

And Conab was no help to


bulls at all, raising its estimate for the Brazilian harvest to 61.7m tonnes from 60.8m tonnes.

Further price weakening news came from the US export data, which, at 460,000 tonnes, fell below market hopes.

"The corn number was well below expectations and continues to point to a market that has struggled to move product at the higher price," Darrell Holaday at Country Futures said.

US rains

At least the grain had some support from the Buenos Aires grain exchange, which cut its estimate for the Argentine corn crop by 500,000 tonnes to 20.8m tonnes, citing the early summer drought.

And, staying on weather, the US southern Midwest and Mississippi Delta region are due significant rains next week – just when, from farm logistics point of view, they are not wanted.

"This will slow plantings and field preparations," US Commodities said.

With Chinese corn prices firm too, whatever the talk of ample supplies, Chicago corn for May managed to recover some ground from tis day low to end at $6.35 ½ a bushel.

Record inventories…

That was enough to regain a premium over


, which fell 0.7% to finish at $6.34 ¾ a bushel, despite another US win in an Egyptian tender, far undercutting rival offers from Canada, France and Ukraine.

"Export news is one of the things that trade is watching very closely," Don Roose, president of US Commodities, told

But the prospect of a Wasde report on Friday "has brought the record world stocks of wheat back into focus", he said.

Fighting a stronger euro, Paris wheat dropped too, by 0.9% to E203.75 a tonne for May delivery. London wheat for May eased 0.2% to £165.00 a tonne.


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