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Evening markets: fund exit melts grains but softs stand firm

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This time it was grains' turn to miss out on the commodities party.

Actually, it wasn't a mega-fiesta, with the CRB commodities index adding 0.7%.

But it swept up many of the major raw materials, such as


which stood some 2% higher in late deals, bringing New York crude just short of $100 a barrel, and


, which added $65 to end at $8,860 a tonne.

And soft commodities were, this time, responsive too, including


which, for December delivery, soared the New York exchange limit of 6.0 cents to end at 125.76 cents a pound.

Report support

The improvements were attributed largely to reversals by Goldman Sachs to its "sell" call on raw materials, with a lift to its oil price hopes, an upgrade also voiced by Morgan Stanley analysts.

Furthermore, the dollar eased, making dollar-denominated assets more affordable to buyers in other currencies, as the euro recovered, helped by upbeat German data.

Indeed, risk assets generally had a bit of a better day, with London shares closing up 0.4%, and Wall Street stocks showing marginal gains in late deals.

'An underachiever'

However, grains tumbled on concerns that maybe their rally had gone far enough for now, with profit-taking appearing the order of the day. Funds sold an estimated 12,000



"The fundamentals on corn are positive but the market is an underachiever," Don Roose, president of broker US Commodities, said, adding that this was a "dangerous situation".

There were plenty of fundamental reasons for elevated grain prices, heightened by the slow spring sowing season, which had left "acreage estimate suspect, yield estimates suspect".

"But it maybe we are high enough," he told

Darrell Holaday at Country Futures said: "The grains have not acted good all day. The rally on the back of weather got built into this market."

Weather latest

In fact, weather forecasts were marginally worse, forecasting extra rain for northern US areas which hardly need it, while keeping a drier window next week.

For Europe, the brief appearance in earlier forecasts of rain over France and Germany, which do need the moisture, disappeared in models later on.

One model "has turned much drier in the six-to-10 day outlook over western Europe", said.

"The reversal in the [model] is dramatic and the six-to-10 day and 11-to-15 day models are very dry for all of western, central, and eastern Europe and the Ukraine."

'Most acres will end up planted'

But the University of Illinois questioned whether talk of corn acreage losses had been overdone.

"A great deal of planting can occur before the final planting date is reached. Therefore, it is quite possible that most acres planted for corn will end up being planted to corn," UoI farm economist Gary Schnitkey said.

And SovEcon revived thoughts of an imminent return by Russia to grain exports after lifting its target for the country's harvest and shipments, despite the talk of dryness.

Investors are keeping a particularly close eye on prospects for Russia and Ukraine, fiercely competitive exporters whose volumes have been limited in 2010-11 following last year's drought-devastated crop.

Falling prices

Among grains,


was the worst off, tumbling 2.9% to $7.79 ¾ a bushel in Chicago for July delivery, at pretty much its day low, with July corn not far behind, down 2.8% at $7.33 ¼ a bushel.



fell a more modest 1.5 cents to 13.72 ¼ a bushel.

Many of Chicago's losses came too late to drag European lots too far. Still, with the euro stronger Paris wheat for November ended 1.4% lower at E241.00 a tonne.

London's November contract lost 1.1% to £191.35 a tonne.

'Sideways range'

Among soft commodities,


was helped by the EU's likely step on Thursday to lift a duty-free quota for imports of the sweetener by 200,000 tonnes, besides some technical factors.

"The market seems in a sideways range but action ought to give rise to efforts to move back up into the low 22.00 cents a pound," Jurgens Bauer at PitGuru said, adding that "a close over 22.95 cents a pound is required to nurture a bullish move".

Raw sugar isn't doing that well yet in New York, finishing at 21.91 cents a pound, but that was nonetheless a 1.9% rise for the day.

Declines ahead?


added 0.7% to $2,884 a tonne in New York, but how long can the bean keep up the rises?

Sudakshina Unnikrishnan at Barclays Capital predicts "further price weakness over coming months" as supply prospects improve.

"In addition to the restart of exports from the Ivory Coast... further price pressure is likely to stem from higher volumes of supply from Ghana while recent rains bode well for Nigeria's crop and the Ivory Coast mid-crop," she said.


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