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Evening markets: pork demand perks up pigs

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A rising star, palm oil, shared the honours with a returning exile, pigs, on Wednesday, although sugar did its best to grab attention by achieving yet another "highest since July 2006".

Palm oil was a more predictable winner, after a report from Oil World, the German-based analysis group, that low stocks would keep prices high only further rattled bulls' cages.

Bursa Malaysia's July contract closed 55 ringgit higher at 2,680 ringgit a tonne, less than 1% short of Monday's eight-month high. Volume was heavy, too, at 17,400 lots of 25 tonnes apiece.

A leap in oil prices, after figures showed a slowdown in US private sector job losses, did nothing to dissuade buyers. Brent crude stood 3.0% higher at $55.74 a barrel at 17:00 GMT.

Sugar sweetens

Indeed, it helped sugar on its winning way too, adding the prospect of higher demand for ethanol – for which sugar is a major feedstuff – to the concerns over strong Indian imports. India, the world's biggest sugar consumer, has turned from exporter to importer because of weak domestic production.

London's August white sugar contract added $3 to $449.4 a tonne, a fresh "highest since July 2006".

But Chicago hogs were the unlikely winner – with May delivery pigs up more than 4% - after US Department of Agriculture data showed that US retailers, rather than being put off pork by swine flu, were taking advantage of depressed prices.

US meatpackers sold 9.55m pounds of pork on Tuesday, making it their busiest day for seven years

June hogs were 2 cents higher at 66.80 cents a pound, their highest for all of eight swine flu-fearing days, with Chicago's July hog contract 2.9% higher at $69.70 a pound. May hogs jumped a whopping 4.6% to $58.375 a pound.

Pork bellies could not quite keep up the pace, with May adding 2.0% to 81.00 cents a pound and July up 1.9% at 81.30 cents per pound, but then they had lost less ground to swine flu.

Winter wheat question mark

Among Chicago's big gun grains, May soybeans were 12.25 cents higher at $11.28 ¼ a bushel, also helped by Oil World, which sliced estimates for Argentina's crop once again.

Informa, meanwhile, came to wheat's aid, forecasting US winter wheat production at 1.54bn bushels this season, shy of the official US estimate of 1.62bn bushels.

Chicago's May wheat contract added 1.5 cents to $5.43 a bushel, helping European wheat too. London's May contract added £0.17 to £113.25 a tonne.

That was not a patch on Paris rapeseed, however, which, helped by its vegetable oil partners soybeans and palm oil, sprinted E6.50 to E315.50 for August delivery.

Corn was the odd one out, despite its use in making ethanol, with Chicago's May contract off 0.75 cents at $3.97 ¾ a bushel and forward contracts also a touch weaker.

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