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Evening markets: risk aversion sinks crop prices - again

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Where have all the buyers gone?

It is a question that may worry Glencore, which launched its long-awaited flotation process on Thursday, and failed, despite a potential valuation of $60bn it will give the company, to be seen as a vote of confidence in either shares or commodities.

The FTSE 100 share index in London, where Glencore will list, ended down 0.8%, and a range of commodities ended lower too, from copper, in which it has a mega market share in world volumes, to corn.

Sugar, in which Glencore touted that it was "among the world's leading physical suppliers" from the freely-traded market, slid to a six-month low.

Right as rain?

But it was a question that many agricultural commodities analysts pondered too. Notably for


which many feel is being sunk by rain talk for parched crops which is not all it is stacked up to be.

Darrell Holaday at Country Futures said: "Wheat remains in liquidation mode as longs are heading for the exits because of expectations of rain in the hard red winter wheat area," where dryness is such a problem.

"There are still no solid indications of good rain in the southern areas, but weather markets are always vulnerable to any type of rain."

At PitGuru, Matthew Pierce said that selling Kansas-traded wheat, the hard red winter variety in peril, was a "horrible idea".

"It may recover slightly but the western third of the growing region is still a disaster with many farmers giving up on the crop out there, as I understand it," he said.

'Reducing risk exposure'

But are outside investors losing faith in their commodities investments, especially after that Goldman Sachs sell recommendation earlier in the week?

Benson Quinn Commodities summed up the dynamics so: "The market is becoming one of extremes as the demand bears battle the supply bulls, and outside volatility has all market players reducing risk exposure by reducing positions."

In wheat, US Commodities noted persistent talk of Russia getting back into grain exports soon.

So horrible idea or not, plenty of investors sold Kansas wheat, sending the May lot down 2.4% to $8.64 a bushel, its lowest finish of the month, and dragging Chicago wheat for May lower too, down 1.6% at $7.40 ½ a bushel.

And that was certainly not good enough for the grain to hold its premium against


, especially when the grain was backed by strong US weekly export sales of 1.1m tonnes, both 2010-11 an 2011-12 crop, showing that high prices had not put buyers off.

'Wet conditions'

Even so Chicago corn eased 0.2% to 7.54 ½ a bushel for May, with it taking the flip side of that wet weather prospect to actually get the grain into positive territory.

"The wet conditions moving through Corn Belt over the next week will be supportive for corn and eventually spring wheat," Mr Holaday said.

New crop December lot closed up 1.6% at $6.44 ½ a bushel.

'Fundamental headwind'

That was enough to steal yet more limelight from new crop November


, their main rival in the spring sowings battle, which lost 0.5% to $13.45 ¼ a bushel, taking its price ratio advantage over corn below 2.1.

A ratio around 2.0 or below is where the switch to sowing corn is reckoned to get really tempting.

Still, some might have thought soybeans deserved even worse treatment, given the demand concerns set against it, with the Buenos Aires Grains Exchange lifting its forecast for the Argentine crop by 400,000 tones to 49.2m tonnes, and US weekly exports, again, disappointing the market.

"Soybeans have run into a fundamental headwind," US Commodities said.

"Export sales are struggling as China is greatly slowing the soybean demand in both the US and South America."

Talking of China, the top buyer of soybeans, there are reports too of a horrid inflation figure, above 5%, to come out on Friday, implying further economic clampdowns, and pressure to slow commodity imports...

Chicago's May soybean contract closed down 0.2% at $13.31 a bushel.

Distant purchases

Nor were European grains in much better spirit, after EU weekly wheat exports fell to a two-month low of 198,000 tonnes.

Paris wheat for May lost 1.0% to E237.75 a tonne, and London wheat for May dropping the same to £207.75 a tonne despite talk in the industry of UK supplies running low.

Farmers in the west of England where is based talk of poultry operations being forced to scour afar for feed grain, which would normally be in plentiful local supply.

'Done the job'

Still, it was


that was really looking post-rally, down a further 1.4% to 24.44 cents a pound for May delivery, the lowest for a spot lot since October.

The problem, Jurgens Bauer at PitGuru said, was a "lack of demand".

"I've seen sugar rise up on previous drops, but that was when physical buyers stepped in. Where are they now?"

Why should buyers worry when, as Nick Penney at Sucden Financial said, "the high prices seen last year and beginning of 2011 seem to have done the job and stimulated production", with hopes for Brazil, the top exporter, and second-ranked Brazil particularly firm.

He added: "It also seems the fund community has largely deserted sugar even before the Goldman Sachs report advising reduction in commodities positions came out."

'Posied for advance'

Nonetheless, the soft commodities complex provided a solid performer too,


, which added 0.6% to 282.40 cents a pound for May delivery, on further technical support, besides the backdrop of a fundamental supply squeeze.

"Bottom line, coffee values appear poised for advance," Mr Bauer said.

"The next resistance level is 284.50 cents a pound for May. And I keep hearing about $3.00..."


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