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Evening markets: oil and stocks drag grains lower

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A miserable day for external markets dragged commodities deep into negative territory, prompting investors to book profits - or cut losses.

There was no immediate consensus of why markets were quite so weak, with London shares closing down 2.5% and German stocks shedding more than 4% and the US Dow Jones index off more than 3% at 05:15 GMT.

Some traders mentioned the worrying levels of bad debts in Bank of America's otherwise promising results. Other cited comments by Dominque Strauss-Kahn, the head of the International Monetary Fund, that the organisation was poised to cut global growth forecasts – again.

Whatever, Bursa Malaysia palm oil, which finished trading for the day before Wall Street shares began their stroppy ride south, was among a small minority of agricultural commodities which closed firmer. The benchmark July contract ended up 11 ringgit at 2,446 ringgit a tonne, albeit far below its high for the day of 2,501 ringgit a tonne.

Chicago blues

London wheat also managed to hold steady, with the weakness of sterling - which dropped more than 2 cents against the US dollar as investors headed for safety - providing some light amid the gloom. London's May contract closed unchanged at £107.50 a tonne with July wheat adding £0.25 to £109.75 a tonne.

But Paris wheat for May lost E0.75 to E138.25 a tonne, and its Chicago counterpart fared even worse, slumping 20.25 cents lower to $502 ¾, its lowest since early March by in the absence of any obvious supports.

Oil was low, with Brent sliding 6.2% to $50.06 a barrel and New York crude down 8.3% at $46.16 a barrel. Weather has been clement, with traders expecting an official report later on Monday to show an improvement in the US winter wheat crop and progress in planning spring wheat.

And soybeans, whose strength has been a pillar for the Chicago market, lost most of last week's gains by slumping 24.75 cents to $10.26 ¼ a bushel.

'Bearish influence'

Corn, meanwhile, was also in trouble, shedding 9.25 cents to $3.67 a bushel.

"The outside markets remain a major bearish influence on all the grains, encouraging widespread selling by locals and commission houses," said Vic Lespinasse at GrainAnalyst.com

"Funds have also been big sellers in grains today, weighing heavily on the market."

The weakness spread into soft commodities too, with London's August sugar contract slipping 2.0% to fall back below £400 a tonne, even with the help of weak sterling, and July cocoa off £8 at £1,713 a tonne. New York cocoa lost 1.5% to $2,378 a tonne.

New York orange juice, meanwhile, lost 2.0% to 83.25 cents a pound.

By Mike Verdin

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