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Evening markets: farmer stand-off lifts corn prices

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There was a "big thing happening" in grain markets, according to Don Roose, president of US Commodities.

And that was the marked outperformance of nearer-term contracts over those further away.

It has been a theme of the spring

wheat

market for a few weeks, with the Minneapolis December contract gaining a premium over the March lot, and expanding its advantage on Tuesday, adding 1.2% to $9.06 ½ a bushel. The March lot gained 1.0% to $8.48 ½ a bushel.

And now it is taking hold of Chicago

corn

too. OK, the corn complex still showed a so-called "carry", with the later lots maintaining their typical premium, to account for storage costs and risk.

But it was eroded. Corn for December gained 0.6% to $6.44 a bushel. The July 2012 contract ended flat at $6.62 ½ a bushel.

'Locked their doors'

"Producers have locked their barn doors," Mr Roose said, reluctant to sell at prices well below summer highs, and with the market looking tight for the rest of 2011-12, still in its early days.

"But users want to cover their needs. Everyone wants up-front supplies."

Which they can, but at a price.

The trend of strength in short-term contracts was also highlighted by Darrell Holaday at Country Futures, who flagged the "substantial reduction in the carry" in corn,

"This reflects the firming basis levels in the corn market as users are finding it difficult to fill the pipeline that was virtually empty in the eastern Corn Belt at the end of the crop year," in August.

"Producer selling remains light," Benson Quinn Commodities chipped in.

'Pushing basis levels'

Tight corn supplies, "pushing basis levels to exporters and preventing significant movement", appeared evident in US export inspection data showing a slide to 21.2m bushels in shipments, down from 21.0m bushels the week before, Mr Holaday added.

And in case that looks a depressant to prices, the ability of livestock farmers and ethanol plants to make money even at these levels was a support, Mr Roose said.

Certainly, corn gained on a day when many risk assets struggled, after Chinese growth figures disappointed, and the wave of eurozone credit rating downgrades looked at risk of spreading to France.

Moody's said it may change its "stable" outlook on France's top AAA rating to "negative".

'Directional fuel'

Indeed, many soft commodities suffered reasonably deep intraday losses, before staging some late rebounds, after Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, sounded more optimistic notes on the chances of a eurozone rescue plan being produced this weekend, relieving financial markets.

March

sugar

ended up 0.2% at 27.66 cents a pound in New York, for March, but only after falling to 27.41 cents a pound earlier.

New York

cocoa

for December slumped to $2,523 a tonne, the lowest for a spot contract since July 2009, before recovering some ground to end at $2,571 a tonne, down 2%, but at least only a two-weeks closing low.

"I maintain that outside influences will continue to be the directional fuel," soft commodities trader Jurgens Bauer said.

"The economic problems we are facing here and in Europe aren't going away by themselves. So for now, I cannot help but feel justified in not wanting to play the long side."

Weaker UK exports

But at least

wheat

had corn to rely on, helping Chicago's December lot close up 1.0 cents at $6.25 ¼ a bushel, pulled higher by its unusual discount to corn, even if later contracts struggled.

The May 2012 lot finished 3.0 cents lower at $6.78 a bushel.

That in turn pulled Paris wheat higher too, with the November lot adding 0.7% to E185.75 a tonne.

London wheat for November was less fortunate, dropping 0.5% to £146.70 a tonne for November, sapped by export data highlighting a tumble in UK shipments of the grain in August, year on year, as revived Russian competition took its toll on world trade.

Chinese imports

Back in Chicago,

soybeans

dropped too, weakened by harvest pressure and a continued round of profit-taking from last week's gains.

The November lot fell 2.25 cents to $12.50 ¾ a bushel.

But that represented quite an improvement, of more than 20 cents, from the intraday low, with strong US export inspection data - of 45.0m bushels, nearly twice that the week before - helping the recovery.

Oil World further cheered the demand picture by predicting a rise to 58.5m tonnes, from 52.85m tonnes, in China's soybean imports in 2011-12.

The US Department of Agriculture has the 2011-12 figure at 56.5m tonnes.

By Agrimoney.com

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