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Evening markets: palm oil ends week at a sprint

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Palm oil ended the week at a sprint, spurred by supply fears, and far outpacing other agricultural commodities – even its recent bull running mate, soybeans.

Bursa Malaysia's benchmark July contract ended 77 ringgit, or 3.3%, higher at 2,435 ringgit a tonne as the supply "panic" reported in's Morning Markets report continued to enthuse buyers.

The contract has gained 40% this year on concerns of bouyant demand and turgid production, which have taken palm oil beyond the gravitational pull of the oil markets which have typically exerted a big influence on prices. Not that oil had a bad Friday, with New York crude up 1.2% at $50.57 a barrel at 17:00 GMT, although Brent was only 3 cents up at $53.09 a barrel.

Soybeans, meanwhile, failed to hold on to the six-month high of $10.73 a bushel set in early deals, even diving into negative territory at points, as investors grew nervous over how long the current rally could last. Indeed, FC Stone, the commodity broker, reportedly bought somewhere around 5,000 put options, a protection for investors against falling prices.

Chicago's May contract was 3 cents higher at $10.61 ¾ a bushel.

Wheat a winner

Indeed, in percentage terms, soybeans were even surpassed by wheat, which stood 3 cents, or 0.6%, higher at $5.28 a bushel as weather looked like doing wheat bulls' a favour.

Forecasters are predicting increasing rain in spring wheat districts, hampering the plantation drive. Meanwhile, sparse precipitation is beginning to appear a problem in some wheat growing areas in Argentina, which is already suffering a parched soybean crop.

The May contract in Kansas, the home of hard red winter wheat trading, was 2.75 cents higher at $56.72 ¾ a bushel in sympathy. And even European wheat got in on the act this time London's May contract added £.125 a tonne to £107.5 a tonne with its Paris counterpart, with the boost from a sagging euro behind it, ending E2.25 higher at E139 a tonne. Paris's May contract hasn't been higher for nearly a month.

Corn, meanwhile, traded around its opening price of $3.85 ¾ a bushel, amid benign US planting season weather.

Warm cocoa

It was a better day for many soft commodities too, with cocoa crawling to a positive close despite data showing a 13.0% slide in US cocoa grindings in the first quarter. New York cocoa for July ended 0.8% higher at $2,400 a tonne with London beans staging an even better rebound, thanks to extra spring from a slip in sterling. London's July contract ended 2.2% up at £1,722 a tonne.

New York orange juice also shook off some midweek blues to close a sprightly 1.4% higher at 85.00 cents a pound.

However, coffee stumbled around a one-month low, with July Arabica down 1.6% at $1.1375 a pound.

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