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Evening markets: fund covering sends wheat soaring

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The last shall be first, and the first shall be last. Chicago commodities reversed the recent order of things to send soybeans to the bottom of the pile on Monday – and wheat to the top.

Wheat has been something of a hound for long-only investors, losing 28% for the near-term contract between a start-of-June high and lows hit last week.

Fundamentals have been a big worry, with the world awash with the grain and set to remain so, thanks to robust production while recession saps demand. Good growing and harvesting weather in the US has been another concern for bulls.

But on Monday, wheat was top dog. Chicago's September contract had jumped 4.1% to $5.40 a bushel by 17:20 GMT.

And this despite weekly US export inspections of 9.6m bushels, viewed by traders as a touch light.

Short covering

The reason for the jump? The closure of short positions was seen by Vic Lespinasse, the marketwatcher, as a big factor.

"Funds have a large short position, and some short-covering has given [wheat] a boost," he said.

"This lack of fund selling has enabled [wheat] to trade higher."

But fundamentals may also have played a part. Alaron, the Chicago-based broker, last week forecast a revival in prices thanks to the high quality of the US crop putting in demand from millers.

Whatever, ripples from the rebound were somewhat muted by the time they crossed the Atlantic, with London wheat for November ending £1.00 higher at £113.00 a tonne, and Paris's August contract closing E1.50 up at E137.25 a tonne.

Top to bottom

Still, European farmers may have been grateful that rapeseed finished only E1.00 lower at E277.00 a tonne.

Soybeans, Chicago's main oilseed, fell distinctly further out of favour, dropping 3.5% to $10.08 ¾ a bushel for the August contract.

They have been the king of the hill for much of the year, buoyed by thin inventories at a time of soaring demand from China.

But record plantings, assisted by benign weather, are prompting a rethink of the crop's credentials.

'Hard to get bullish'

"Weather is fantastic for everything so it's pretty hard to get bullish when that's going on," a Chicago grains trader told Reuters, the news agency.

"Add lower crude oil to the great weather and you have a lower corn and bean market. The only thing keeping them from falling further is the oversold technical picture."

Indeed, oil lost ground again, down $0.32 at $59.57 a barrel for New York light crude for August.

Nonetheless, corn managed to post a small gain, up 1.75 cents to $3.30 a bushel for September delivery.

Raising cattle

On other markets, cattle proved an unexpected winner, with live animals for August adding 1.8% to 85.00 cents a pound in Chicago and feeder cattle for the same month up 1.0% at 103.90 cents a pound.

Much of the rise was attributed to technical buying, with the live cattle contract rising above a 100-day average.

But fundamentals played a role. Good US pasture condition is expected to raise demand for animals to feed on it.

Cocoa fears

Among softs, September cocoa added 1.2% to $2,677 a tonne in New York, helped by data from the International Cocoa Organisation pegging the Indonesian crop at 485,000 tonnes in 2008-09.

The ICO also echoed analysts' concerns that Indonesian output in the next crop year, which starts in October, could be hurt by the onset of an El Nino weather pattern.

Orange juice, the pick of the softs bunch last week, remained in demand, up 1.0% at 94.50 cents a pound.

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