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Evening markets: pigs suffer while crops recover

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Swine flu continued to bite at pig prices on Tuesday, while beginning to take a back seat among crop traders amid stabilisation in external markets.

June hogs stood 3 cents lower - limit down - at $65.67 ½ cents a pound in Chicago by lunchtime, with July pork bellies also falling the maximum allowed, tumbling 3 cents to $77.80 a pound.

Traders blamed the falls on concerns that the negative association of the current flu outbreak will stick to pig sales, even if the two are found to be unconnected.

Contract expiries

Chicago grain markets, however, turned their attention to the tricky business of the forthcoming expiry of May contracts.

Soybeans proved particularly vulnerable to the prospect of Thursday's first notice for May deliveries. Changes in contract months often provoke wild swings as positions are closed or transferred.

The May contract was 11.75 cents lower at $9.93 a bushel at 17:00 GMT, with July also lower, down 10 cents at $9.87 a bushel. Longer dated contracts, meanwhile showed gains, with May 2010 beans up 8 cents at 9.15 ½ a bushel.

"If you like volatile markets, this is your day," Vic Lespinasse at GrainAnalyst.com said.

Planting boost

Corn was better behaved, with all contracts in positive ground, albeit with a gains bias to later contracts. May corn was 0.5 cents higher at $3.72 ¾ a bushel, gaining support from talk of wet weather for key planting areas this week.

Wheat, meanwhile, maintained its advantage on data showing poor US plantings of the spring crop, with Chicago's May contract 4 cents higher at $5.12 a bushel.

The vibes failed to make it across the Atlantic, however. Despite a weaker pound, London May wheat stood unchanged at £109.25 a tonne, with its Paris equivalent down E0.25 at E139.25 a tonne.

But at least May rapeseed was not pulled down by beans, and added E3.00 to E299.50 per tonne.

Softs firm

Softs also continued a cautious bounceback from Monday's flu-inflicted lows. New York sugar for May was 0.7% up at 13.80 cents a pound, with July cocoa $2 higher at $2,387 a tonne.

London coffee for July managed only a $1 rise to $1,371 a tonne.

Juice spoiled the party with a 2.25 cents drop to 82.85 for New York's July contract.

On external markets, European shares managed to claw back many of their losses by the close, with New York stocks showing small gains.

Benchmark oil contracts remained below $50 barrel, and in negative territory, if well above day lows.

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