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Evening markets: good stories free some crops from sell-off

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Commodity markets suffered a dose of selling as signs of tighter monetary policy fed through into concerns over demand for raw materials.

Recent additions to the list of countries raising interest rates include India, which earlier on Tuesday hiked its rates by 0.5 points to 7.25%, and, on Friday, Russia.

This despite expectations that the current round of so-called quantitative easing in the US may be the last, a factor Societe Generale highlighted in a warning of the end of the commodities bull run.

Many raw materials suffered, including


, which lost more than 2%, both for New York crude and Brent crude.

A reviving


did little to help commodities' cause, making dollar-denominated assets more expensive to buyers in other currencies.

Agricultural commodities bore their fair share of the sell-off, with crops requiring decent bull stories to avoid red ink.

'Distant memory'

There were some of these around. Notably, for new crop


, in the slow sowing progress shown in US Department of Agriculture data out overnight, revealing only 13% of the crop planted compared with an average of 40% by now.

Sure, considerable catch up is expected this week, thanks to drier weather in many parts, with US Commodities noting market estimates that planting progress will reach 30-34% in a week's time.

Still, that would be behind the average, and there are some fears that many areas will not enjoy the improved weather, and perhaps cut corn sowing plans altogether.

"The concern is the amount of corn acres that may be lost in the southern Midwest and Delta areas that are extremely sloppy and are projected to stay wet through the week," Darrell Holaday at Country Futures said.

At PitGuru, Matthew Pierce said that the earlier hope of "planting 92+ million acres of corn is now a distant memory".

Chicago corn for December added 1 cents to $6.62 ¼ a bushel.

Stocks data erroneous?

But old crop corn could not keep up, weakened by the revelation of deliveries by Archer Daniels Midland against Chicago's expiring May contract, highlighting the market as an attractive selling opportunity.

"This just continues to reveal the old crop corn demand story," US Commodities said, meaning a weakening tale.

There is another theory too, with Mr Holaday noting "talk that many believe there is more corn out there than USDA is indicating in stock levels", a factor also potentially signalled by cash market dynamics.

"The lack of momentum in the basis recently has also added to that discussion," he said.

Corn for July fell 1.5% to $7.23 ¾ a bushel, with the May lot itself ending down 1.6% at $7.19 a bushel, the lowest finish for a spot contract since late March.

Beans slip


struggled too, both old crop and new, thanks in part to the evidence of soft demand at a time when forecasts for South America's crops are still rising.

Analysis group Celeres was the latest to issue an upgrade, pegging Brazil's crop at a record 72.6m tonnes, up 2m tonnes from its previous estimate.

Meanwhile, hampered corn sowings could spell increased sowings of the oilseed, putting "pressure on new crop soybeans as more and more land is set aside for soybeans, which are a shorter-season crop", PitGuru's Mr Pierce noted.

July soybeans ended down 2.0% at $13.63 ¾ a bushel, with the new crop November contract losing 1.5% to $13.54 ¼ a bushel.

Heat for wheat


, for once, was something of a standard bearer, thanks in part to the slow pace of spring sowings in both the US and Canada, and also the continuing deterioration of America's moisture-deprived hard red winter wheat.

Indeed, forecasts for hard red winter crop forecast further hardships, with noting that "temperatures will continue to warm over the lower Plains" bringing a heatwave around the May 8-10 period.

Wheat for July rose 0.2% to $7.93 ¼ a bushel in Chicago and 0.8% to $8.98 a bushel in Kansas, the home of trading in US hard red winter wheat.

The rises were more noted in Europe, which had help from weakening currencies, as well as their own dry weather scare. Paris wheat for May ended up 0.7% at E248.75 a tonne, with the London May contract gaining 0.5% to £206.00 a tonne.

Weather setbacks

And they helped drive a better day in


, which added 2.0% in New York for July delivery to close at 157.51 cents a pound, with the new crop December contract gaining 1.0% to 128.37 cents a pound.

Dry weather in Texas, which in wheat is a hard red winter state, is poor news for cotton sowings too, with talk of investors covering short positions too, following a profitable downward run in the fibre.

However, many soft commodities were higher, if only marginally, with


for July gaining 0.3% to a 34-year closing high of 306.15 cents a pound in New York, amid talk of colder temperatures for Brazil, the top producer, which some investors have taken to mean an increased risk of damaging frosts.

In Colombia, the second-biggest producer of the arabica beans traded in New York, "rains are said to be threatening the coffee crop", James Mound at PitGuru said, while adding that, with the country already having suffered a series of poor seasons, "it feels like old news already".

Cocoa price prospects


gained 0.3% to £1,984 a tonne in London, but, in (strengthening) dollar terms lost 0.6% to $3,271 a tonne, a mixed performance in line with, apparently, the commodity's price outlook.

In Ivory Coast, the top producer of the bean, and which has been hit by political-based conflict, "it looks like exports of cocoa are not quite ready to resume", Mr Mound said, noting talk that resuming shipments "will take time to organise" following a three-month ban imposed as part of the wrangling.

"Despite this potential slowdown, the supply pipeline is still primed to start up again and that means that all of those backlogged beans are ready to hit the market," he added

"That should squash any attempted rallies in cocoa futures and bring prices back down."


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