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Evening markets: oil crops sweeter than cocoa

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Vegetable oil crops proved sweeter than cocoa, which closed at its lowest for five months on fears for falling demand.

It was a bad day for most markets. London, Paris and Frankfurt shares closed down more than 2%, US stocks looked set to join them, and even oil lost some of its mojo. New York crude for May was 1.0% down at $58.24 a barrel at 17:30 GMT.

The trouble was a slew of bleak economic data from both sides of the Atlantic which withered hopes for green shoots of economic revival. In the US, retail sales slipped 0.4% last month, a worse drop than analysts had predicted.

The eurozone was blighted by weak industrial production data for March while, in the UK, the governor of the Bank of England, Mervyn King, raised the prospect of the economy shrinking even into 2011.

Cocoa no no

So cocoa was hardly alone in finding headway difficult. London's July contract closed down 2.4% at �1,601 a tonne, its lowest since early December, continuing to be depressed by Monday's comments from the the International Cocoa Organisation (ICCO) that cocoa grinding would fall 6% in the year to September, their biggest fall in half a century.

Technical factors also played a part, traders said, after the bean failed to break through a moving average, indeed falling instead through supposed support levels.

Ironically, fundamentals began to present some hope, with reports of heavy rains in the Ivory Coast, the main cocoa producing country, increased the chance of disease.

Sour for sugar

Sugar also dipped, with New York sugar for July slipping 1.7% to 15.45 cents a pound, as trader wondered whether last week's sharp rise in prices had not been overdone.

"The rally has been impressive but the funds have taken the market up quite far and a serious pullback is in order," Sucden Financial said.

Coffee also succumbed to a touch of profit taking, following a rise driven by production squeezes in states including Colombia.

July arabicas lost 1.3% to 127.15 a pound in New York.

Wheat dips

Against that backdrop, July wheat's 0.8% fall to $5.88 a bushel in Chicago seemed mild, as investors continued to fret about the huge stocks forecast by the US Department of Agriculture on Tuesday.

That said, some forward contracts did worse, with March 2010 wheat off 1.1% at $6.50 � a bushel.

European contracts, however, got some support from weakening currencies as investors fled back to the sanctuary of the dollar.

London wheat for July added �2.00 to �120.00 a tonne with Paris's contract August E1.00 firmer at E148.50.

Corn, meanwhile, slipped 0.9% to $4.23 � a bushel for Chicago's July contract, with losses of 1% and above for later delivery crops.

'Fund money'

That left palm oil looking remarkably perky, closing up 64 ringgit, or 2.4%, at 2,789 ringgit a tonne � a fresh nine-month high - for Bursa Malaysia's benchmark July contract.

And soybeans appeared the best of the Chicago bunch, with near-term contracts, at least, staying in positive territory. July soybeans added 4.75 cents to $11.22 � a bushel, although some later new crop contracts were showing small losses.

"There is more fund money coming in and I think today it's more technical than anything else in beans," a trader told Reuters, the news agency.


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