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Evening markets: grains benefit as markets show soy nerves

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Wednesday was an altogether better day for risk assets, including agricultural commodities, as officials in the eurozone sought to allay fears for Spain's hefty debt load.

Benoît Coeuré, a member of the European Central Bank's executive board, signalled that the eurozone central bank might make fresh purchases of Spanish sovereign bonds, if deemed necessary.

Spanish and Italian bond yields eased, while shares gained, with London stocks rebounding 0.7% and Frankfurt stocks by 1.0%, while New York shares stood 0.8% higher in late deals.

The CRB commodities index recovered 0.5%.

'Weakening technical picture'

But soybeans, for a second successive session, closed in negative territory.

OK, the losses were not huge, with Chicago's May lot closing down 0.3% at $14.22 a bushel.

However, when speculators have a record net long position in the oilseed, for which read unfulfilled selling pressure, the pit's pulse is being closely felt, producing the current feeling that collapse, even a temporary one, is not imminent for now.

"The reversal in soybeans yesterday has prompted some technical liquidation, but the selling has been a long way from being overwhelming," Darrell Holaday at Country Futures said.

Benson Quinn Commodities said that "despite a weakening technical picture in soybeans", the broker was "not sold on ideas that the trade is ready to establish a large number of new shorts in the soybean complex".

'Now fully priced'

The oilseed's problem is that it needs a run of bullish updates just to stand still.

"Soybeans are now fully priced, and needs new news," Scott Briggs at Australia & New Zealand Bank said.

There were some supportive snippets around, with Tenco, for instance, cutting its estimate for US soybean stocks at the close of 2011-12 to 208m bushels, below Tuesday's forecast from the US Department of Agriculture of 250m bushels.

However, much of the newsflow surrounding soybeans was also more negative, especially for new crop, which is already seen as having won itself a stack of acres from


in US farmers' spring sowing plans.

And, with corn seed said to be running short in the US, and talk of huge soybean acreage expansion ahead in Brazil, new crop November soybeans were especially weak, falling 0.4% to $13.59 a bushel.

Technical pointer

With December corn adding 0.2% to $5.46 ¾ a bushel, lifted in part by a US freeze, the much-watched new crop soybean: corn ratio fell back below the key level of 2.50, to 2.49.

And that might not be the end of the story, given the weakening technical picture this invokes, taking the spread below its 10-day moving average at $2.51.

"If it closes below the 10-day moving average, the ratio could go back down to 2.43," Jerry Gidel, at broker Rice Dairy, said.

Spreads undone

In fact, there is something self-fulfilling about weakness in oilseeds and strength in grains, with much of the boosts in corn and wheat prices seen down to the unwinding of spreads.

"Unwinding of long soybean/short corn spreads and soybean/


spreads has probably been the main feature," Mr Holaday said.

"This is why soybeans have been weaker relative to the other markets."

That, and some risk premium over the US weather which termed "impressively cold given the fact that it's mid-April", reaching 18 degrees Fahrenheit (-7.8 degrees Celsius) in North Dakota, and 17 degrees Fahrenheit (-8.3 degrees Celsius) in parts of Iowa

'Damage has already been done'

In Europe, although "moisture is increasing for wheat areas, it should be noted that there are indications that damage to French wheat has already been done", Mr Holaday said.

US Commodities flagged price support from a "private estimate of the French soft winter wheat crop being down 1.8m tonnes".

And corn got support from better US ethanol numbers, with output jumping 23,000 barrels a day to 896,000 barrels a day, while stocks fell 781,000 barrels to 21.77m barrels all the same.

Corn for May closed up 0.4% at $6.365 a bushel, while May wheat added 0.4% to $6.28 a bushel.

'Word of warning'

Many soft commodities also posted gains, supported by the broader risk-on feel, besides in


caution over further Brazil cane numbers, due on Thursday from Unica, the industry group.

Sure, Conab, Brazil's crop bureau, sent prices lower in the last session by estimating Brazilian sugar output at a record 38.9m tonnes.

"However, a word of warning," Nick Penney at Sucden Financial said.

"This is a first estimate and one of Conab's [revisions] last season caused a spike in the futures market.

"These figures are open to question. If a lower number is published [by Unica], as is likely given comments by millers, it may cause a turnabout in values."

New York raw sugar for May added 0.3% to 23.95 cents a pound.

'Fall in productivity'

And New York arabica


for May added 1.4% to 180.65 cents a pound, underpinned by talk from the International Coffee Organization that while supply prospects for 2011-12 had turned out better than it had thought, concerns remained over 2012-13.

"Despite the better crop expected in Brazil for crop year 2012-13, there is limited prospect of significant production increases in other countries," the ICO said.

"Labour costs and the current surge in prices of petroleum products may have a negative impact on the incomes of coffee producers, who will be driven to cut down on both the use of costly inputs and investments in plant husbandry, with a consequent fall in productivity."


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