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Evening markets: soybeans drop, as investors' faith weakens

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The first shall be last.

OK, it was a difficult day for risk assets, especially in markets such as Chicago which had some time to react to a Federal Reserve report throwing doubt on ideas that the US central bank may be keen to launch a fresh round of monetary stimulus.

(New York soft commodities, most of which finished trading before the Fed meeting minutes were released, got their declines in early.)

Even so,


, Chicago investors' favourite of late, rising some 18% so far in 2012, were notable in their decline, which contrasted with rises in grains.

'Potential for an unwind'

But then fast money was seen as getting itchy after building its net long position in the oilseed to a record high, leaving open the potential for a huge selling wave on price-negative news.

"Trade is talking about the potential for an unwind of the soybean-


spread," broker FCStone noted early on.

"This has moved quite a bit the last month and market could see some profit taking."

And there were some catalysts to encourage a bit of selling.

Farmers switching

Brazilian export data showed soybean shipments for March at 4.2m tonnes, up from 1.1m tonnes a year before and 1.7m tonnes in February, showing there is some life in the South American agricultural powerhouse, despite drought damage to southern crops.

Then there is the growing talk of farmers switching to soybeans some of their huge acres planned for corn, as revealed by keynote US Department of Agriculture data on Friday.

"Current spread value already has producers considering switching from corn to soybeans," Paul Georgy at Allendale noted.

"In 2009, the price relationship was similar and from March to June reports, soybean acres increased by 1.5m acres."

Besides, an area of US cropland the size of Israel appears to remain unaccounted for, and potentially ready to insert into sowing schedules, revealed.

Wheat impact

Ideas of a corn to soybean switch were hardly hurt by USDA data overnight showing US sowings of corn strong, but nowhere near as fast as analysts had expected – leaving more potential for farmers to change crops yet.

Furthermore, the data highlighted the early development of winter



That isn't necessarily good news for growers, in that increases the risk of damage from a late frost.

But, assuming an early harvest, it does increase the potential for follow-on soybean crops.

"Soft red winter wheat is one to two weeks ahead of normal. This should equate to an early wheat harvest, earlier double-crop planting, and better soybean yield" in these areas, broker US Commodities said.

New crop battle

May soybeans set a fresh seven-month high of $14.34 ¼ a bushel only to tumble to close at $14.16 ¾ a bushel, down 0.5% on the day.

Signally, the new crop November soybean lot, affected by the extra sowings and spread unwinding talk, fell more, by 0.6% to $13.78 ¾ a bushel.

That left it firmly outperformed by December corn - the beneficiary of closures of long new crop soybean, short new crop corn spreads – which ended up 0.1% at $5.45 ½ a bushel.

That edged the soybean: corn ratio back to 2.53, from 2.55 at last night's close.

'Freeze bid'

Still, old crop May corn did far better than old, lifted in part by further evidence of the weaker-than-expected stocks revealed by the USDA on Friday feeding through into cash prices.

"Lack of producer selling is firming up the domestic market a bit," FCStone said.

The contract closed up 1.0% at 6.58 ¼ a bushel, taking total gains since Friday's data to 9%.

And that helped fellow grain wheat too, which rose 0.2% to $6.58 a bushel in Chicago, although data showing a healthy and well-developed crop so far undermined later contract, with the July lot shedding 0.1% to $6.69 a bushel.

"There is still a solid freeze bid underneath the wheat market as the rapid development… is a concern," Darrell Holaday at Country Futures said.

"But we need to keep in mind that if there is not a freeze, then we are set up for a very large hard red winter wheat crop." And of soft red winter wheat too.

Pace implications

Hard red winter wheat itself closed unchanged at $6.90 a bushel for May, and $6.99 ½ a bushel for July.

Indeed, Minneapolis spring wheat was again the better performer, helped by Friday's data showing unexpected small farmer desire for the crop, although a rapid pace of sowings may signal acres will turn out higher than thought.

"The pace of planting would probably mean more acres will get planted than the USDA planting report noted," FCStone said.

Minneapolis wheat for May closed up 0.1% at $8.50 ¼ a bushel, and for July up 0.3% at $8.45 ½ a bushel.

Rain where it is wanted

In Europe, Paris May milling wheat closed down 0.7% at E211.50 a tonne, while London wheat for May lost 1.0% to £172.00 a tonne, with ideas of improved conditions, following some rain in dry areas.

"EU wheat prices are down on the back of some rain falling in parts of Europe, in particular Germany, and more forecast for Germany, France and the UK," a major European commodities house said.

It added that "the dry conditions still cause plenty of concern and will continue to underpin the market.

"Keep an eye on the forecast, especially northern France. The grain belt in this region is causing particular worry."

'Downside is more vulnerable'

Among soft commodities,


fell as the Indian Sugar Mills association eased doubts over India's sugar output, the world's second biggest, pegging production at 23.2m tonnes between October and the end of last month – a rise of 13% year on year.

Furthermore, the crush in Thailand, the second-ranked exporter, has reached 91.3m tonnes of cane, producing 9.5m tonnes of sugar so far and putting 10m tonnes of output on the cards.

Such supply ideas, "coupled with a stubborn speculative long position which in the end will have to be rolled or liquidated, still makes us believe that the downside is more vulnerable", Nick Penney at Sucden Financial said.

New York raw sugar for May fell 1.3% to 24.25 cents a pound.

And New York


dropped 0.5% to 92.64 cents a pound for May after the International Cotton Advisory Committee raised its estimate for world inventories, and warned over the, negative, implications for prices of Chinese stockpiling.


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