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Evening markets: sliding dollar plugs hole in crop sentiment

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Just as crop markets were showing signs of jitters, along came the Federal Reserve to provide, some, support.

The US central bank surprised investors by saying that its benchmark interest would remain "exceptionally low until at least late 2014".

The pledge had previously only lasted until early 2014.

The prospect of easy monetary policy while sapping the


, which shed 0.4% against a basket of currencies to drop to its lowest since before Christmas, was well-received on risk markets, helping Wall Street stocks to 0.4% gains.

'Tanked the dollar'

And it helped dollar-denominated commodities too, which become more appealing as the dollar falls, besides receiving a boost from ideas that easier monetary policy means more cash for buying raw materials, besides increasing the chance of an inflationary environment in which they tend to shine.

The Fed's statement "tanked the US dollar and moved commodities including the grains to higher levels", Darrell Holaday at Country Futures said, if noting that futures had since "sold off from those highs".

Chicago soybeans, indeed, closed in negative territory, down 0.5% at $12.13 ½ a bushel for March delivery, weak dollar or not.

'Limited export activity'

Part of the problem was came from waning ideas that drought-hit Argentina will enact the curbs on


and/or soybean shipments which would boost US exports, and indeed supported prices in the last session.

The country, which has denied the talk, "will simply allow the market to do what it has to do, which will likely result in limited export activity", broker Benson Quinn Commodities suggested.

Furthermore, the broker noted that Brazil and Paraguay, parts of which have also received worryingly low levels of rain, "did receive decent rainfall overnight", boosting prospects in particular for soybeans which, as a later crop than corn, have more scope for recovery.

Talk of exports to China this week, or last, fell flat, a market source told "Qualified sources indicate this is highly doubtful," the source said.

And there was a technical setback after the March soybean contract came within 0.5 cents of its key chart level of the 100-day moving average, at $12.26 ¾ a bushel, only to fall back, potentially a sign of limited appetite to drive the oilseed higher.

'On fire'

Corn also ended well below its intraday high. But it at least achieved a positive close in part because the damage to South American crops from hot and dry weather has already been done.

Also, the grain is getting considerable support from cash markets, reported on Tuesday reaching a five-month high of $0.82 a bushel, loaded on board, over futures at the US Gulf Coast.

"Cash markets are strong and end users are finding it difficult to pull grain away from the farmer even with the seasonal record-high basis," Paul Georgy at Allendale said.

US Commodities said: "The basis levels at the Gulf and in the eastern Corn Belt are on fire."

However, there is a downside, the broker noted, saying that "after the recent rally, Argentina corn [excluding freight] has moved to a discount to US corn".

"This is the issue with the market. If we move up too much the US markets become uncompetitive."

Corn for March ended 0.7% higher at $6.34 ½ a bushel.

'What Russians will want to avoid…"

Still, that was not enough to keep up with


, which finished up 1.2% at $6.41 ¼ a bushel for March, thanks largely to ideas of a Russian export ban, which also emerged on Tuesday, being given a little more weight than those for Argentina, if not being seen universally as likely.

Depending on prospects for the 2012 grains harvest, Russia's government could relax a threat to impose export curbs once shipments reach 23m-25m tonnes "in anticipation of a bumper crop soon to be harvested", UK grain traders at a commodities house with a large Black Sea presence said.

Still, "what the Russians will want to avoid is ramping domestic prices caused by shortages".

Many investors were also reported to be covering their, plentiful, short positions in Chicago wheat, just in case Russia does act to keep grain in-country. Covering short positions means buying long exposure and supporting prices.

In Europe, likely thanks to geography to be the first port of call for buyers unsettled by any Russia upset, Paris wheat for March ended 1.1% higher at E208.00 a tonne.

London feed wheat for May, the best-traded contract, closed up 0.5% at £164.25 a tonne after hitting a four-month high of £168.50 a tonne earlier.

'Slowing arrivals'

Among soft commodities,


continued its recovery, although at a slower pace, ending up 0.4% at a two-month high of $2,422 a tonne in New York for March delivery, with decreasing hopes for West African output seen encouraging further holders of short positions to throw in their hands.

Lynette Tan at Phillip Futures noted "concern about dry weather in top grower Ivory Coast as well as slowing arrivals there" at ports from farmers.

London's March lot added 0.3% to £1,589 a tonne.


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