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Evening markets: grain rally's birthday party ends in tears

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It was the first anniversary of the rally in grains, but hardly a happy one.

Exactly a year after grains began to head skywards in earnest, boosted by the appreciation (beyond early mover Glencore) of the scale of Russia's drought problem, and by some bullish US crop estimates, they fell a long way back towards earth.

Indeed,

corn's

fall of 11.9% at one point was the biggest since 1996. The July lot managed to claw back a bit of ground to close down 9.9% at $6.29 a bushel.

Even so, it managed to retain a premium against

wheat

, which ended down 8.8% at $5.84 ¾ a bushel in Chicago for July delivery, the weakest finish since the bull market was just under one-month old.

'Bombshell'

The cause was a US Department of Agriculture data termed a "bombshell" by Darrell Holaday at Country Futures in raising the forecast estimate for American sowings 1.5m acres above market expectations (and 1.6m acres above its own previous forecast).

To boot, the USDA said there was some 370m bushels more corn left over from last year;s harvest than had been thought.

Benson Quinn Commodities said the USDA had given the market "a bearish slap to the face".

Other observers took a more sceptical approach. "Farmers across the country are scratching their heads," the American Farm Bureau said.

At PitGuru, Matthew Pierce said: "Questions following the report are many with no real answers."

"How do we gain so many corn acres in the past 60 days? What about the lost corn in North Dakota? What about the lost spring wheat in North Dakota?

"How do both corn and wheat stocks increase if we are switching some bushels of feedings to wheat?" Wheat inventories were pegged higher than expectations too.

'Where the hell...'

The list went on, notably including a reference to the first delivery again Chicago's July lot as, with expiry ahead, it assumes its physical trading properties, rather than just being a financial contract.

"Overnight saw zero receipts put out for corn. Where the hell is all this corn?" Mr Pierce asked.

Investors were not waiting to find out, especially at the end of a month and quarter (and for some financial year too) when they are usually more flighty anyway.

"The feeling on Wall Street is that commodities are a 'played out' game forcing more and more fund money to the sidelines causing a downdraft that no bulls, myself included, can ignore," he added.

Funds sold an estimated 35,000 contracts on Thursday, along with 9,000 wheat lots and 7,000 soybean contracts.

Selling what they can

That was enough to lock most Chicago corn contracts down the $0.30-a-bushel daily limit, bar the July contract which, being now in its expiry process, is freed of such curbs.

Indeed, there was some feeling that the extent of the fall in the July lot represented pressure from unfulfilled selling in the later corn contracts.

"The depth of the loss in the July corn is distorted because of the lack of limit and those that want out of the other contracts are selling July as a way to stop the losses in their other grain contracts," Mr Holaday said.

The same was less so for wheat, with the later lots taking some time to fall the $0.60-a-bushel daily limit, and the July contract actually ending a restrained 56.5 cents lower.

Still, that was more in percentage terms (above 8%) than wheat contracts fell across the Atlantic, although with Paris wheat ending down 7.7% at E184.50 a tonne for November, and London tumbling 6.8% to £157.05 a tonne, European investors may not feel blessed.

Dragged lower

Chicago

soybeans

were more restrained in their losses, falling 2.1% to $13.06 ¼ a bushel for July delivery and the same to $12.99 ½ a bushel for August.

But then they were offered some bullish crumbs from the USDA data, which showed that the extra corn sowings had come at soybeans' expense.

"The soybean acreage number is supportive. But with the corn fundamentals rolling over, the upside is very limited without a weather problem," Mr Holaday said.

Cotton drops

Most soft commodities were spared a USDA savaging, and could enjoy better the brighter sentiment abroad in many financial markets, evident in a 1.1% rise in Wall Street stocks in late deals, and a 0.5% fall in the dollar.

The exception was New York

cotton

, which tumbled 2.3% to 118.59 cents a pound after the USDA raised its acreage estimate for the fibre too, by 1.1m acres to 13.7m acres.

The July lot fell 1.5% to 159.79 cents a pound, taking cotton's losses to 40% for the quarter, on a spot-contract basis.

And

sugar

fell on profit-taking closing down 3.1% at 28.36 cents a pound in New York for the expiring July contract, although not before jumping to 30.88 cents a pound in early deals.

The better-traded October lot shed 2.2% to 26.34 cents a pound.

'Threat of cold weather'

Still, New York

coffee

soared 2.0% to 265.35 cents a pound for July and 1.9% to 265.60 cents a pound for September, lifted by lingering threats of further frost in Brazil, the top producing country.

"No one wants to sell while the threat of cold weather exists," Jurgens Bauer at PitGuru said.

"Heard reports that a new cold air mass expected to develop in Argentina during the weekend. This system also has the potential to bring cold weather to Brazil's coffee belt early next week, so who wants to be short over the long three day weekend?"

By Agrimoney.com

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