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Evening markets: hopes for corn sowings trip up grains rally

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Is the tide turning on the wave of downbeat weather forecasts?



, at least, there is hope for US farmers that they soon be able to stop watching rain pour onto already sodden, and unusually cold, fields, and get on with the jump in sowings they have planned on.

"The weather is improved in the eight-to-15 day maps. The forecast has a warmer/drier forecast," US Commodities said.

"This should provide the opportunity needed on most of the Corn Belt to hit at least average planting dates."

'A legitimate concern'

Of course, forecasts for US weather have been notably inaccurate of late, keeping on promising rain for hard red winter wheat areas which has failed to appear.

Closing crop prices

Chicago wheat: $7.85 a bushel, -0.1%

Kansas wheat: $9.20 a bushel, -0.7%

Minneapolis wheat: $9.38 ¾ a bushel,-0.5%

Chicago corn: $7.32 ¾ a bushel, -2.2%Paris wheat: E253.75 a tonne, +1.0%

London wheat: £217.50 a tonne, +0.2%

Prices for May contracts

If corn investors needed a further excuse to sell, US ethanol data gave them one, showing production down 42m gallons week on week to 858m gallons.

This could pose "a legitimate concern as it may indicate some weakening in the resolve to continue to produce ethanol", Darrell Holaday at Country Futures said.

So there was bearish news for both old-crop corn, which closed down 2.2% at $7.32 ¾ a bushel, and new crop, which ended for December 3.0% down at $6.52 a bushel.

'Planting weeks away'

And, with the corn versus


feed equation in the back of traders' minds, that was hardly helpful to wheat prices either, even though weather concerns remain at large for this grain, bringing futures contracts large gains in earlier deals.

"It is snowing in Minnesota this morning, with snows across the Dakotas yesterday. Spring planting in the northern Plains remains weeks away," Benson Quinn Commodities said.

For the drought-stricken US hard red winter wheat districts, "like an unwanted house guest, heat and dryness are moving back in after a brief respite", Matthew Pierce at PitGuru said.

"There was only minimal rain seen over the neediest areas and now with nothing on the horizon after today there is little real hope of any sustained recovery in conditions."

'Real and persistent problems'

And that's before looking abroad.

"Growing dryness concerns in Germany and France are real and persistent problems for a world wheat market struggling for quality product," Mr Pierce said.

Then there was demand news, with Lebanon snapping up 50,000 tonnes of milling wheat, and Saudi Arabia tendering for 330,000 tonnes.

Furthermore, the International Grains Council raised its estimate of the grains deficit in 2011-12, including a small downgrade to its wheat forecast.

Yet, despite fund buying of some 1,000 Chicago wheat lots (as opposed to sales of 14,000 contracts in corn), thanks to corn and pre-Easter position closing, the May lot ended down 0.1% at $7.85 a bushel, more than $0.20 below its intraday high.

Kansas (hard red winter) wheat ended down 0.7% at $9.20 a bushel for May, while Minneapolis (spring) wheat lost 0.5% to $9.38 ¾ a bushel.

'Surprising strength'

Many other agricultural commodities did a better job of tapping into upbeat conditions in external markets, helped by upbeat results from the likes of United Technologies, and firm demand for bonds sold by eurozone struggler Spain.

Many traders noted speculation that a fresh wave of money was ready to move into commodity markets, encouraged by a weaker dollar, which fell some 1% to its lowest levels since late 2009, making dollar-denominated assets more affordable.


surfed the wave, adding 1.1% to $13.56 ½ a bushel for May, even amid fears over China's apparently waning demand for the oilseed, following the cancellations of a series of South American orders.

"The surprising strength today has been in the soybean complex as it has been rock solid despite continued concerns in China," Mr Holaday said.

The unwinding of "buy corn, sell soybean" spreads was seen as helping soybean's strength.

'Vulnerable to a rally'

And, besides


, which broke through $1,500 an ounce for the first time, and


, which hit a 31-year high of $45 an ounce, and


, whose prices bounced nearly 2% (and shares, which rose 3% in Frankfurt, 2% in London and more than 1% in New York), many soft commodities thrived too.


was the headline maker, topping $3 a pound for New York's July contract, the first time in 34 years a second-in lot has reached that level.



was the biggest gainer, following up a 10% decline so far this month with a 3.8% bounce for the May lot, to 25.20 cents a pound.

The July contract did even better, helped by the roll from the close-to-expiry May lot into more distant contracts, closing up 4.0% at 23.53 cents a pound.

"Sugar prices seem oversold and vulnerable to a rally," Jurgens Bauer at PitGuru said.

However he added that from a technical perspective, for the July lot, "a close above 23.75 cents a pound is needed to really get things going".


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