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Evening markets: soybeans regain supremacy over grains

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Could crops stage a first-of-the-month rally?

The start of the month is, after all, a period when funds by repute put money into the market, tending to take it out at month end.

"It the first day of a new month and trade will be looking for new fund buying on the open and close of the session," Benson Quinn Commodities said.

But just as agricultural commodities at the end of February failed to suffer any big selling, they failed at the start of March to follow the script too.

'Buying on any dips'

... with one notable exception –

soybeans

.

Just as it looked like the oilseed would close lower in Chicago for the first time in nine sessions, late buying steered it back to positive territory, to a close up 0.2% at $13.22 ½ a bushel for May delivery.

The close-to-expiring March lot gained 0.3% to $13.16 ¾ a bushel, a fresh five-month closing high.

"There is a lot of buying on any dips," Darrell Holaday at Country Futures said, noting that "some of the buying is technical".

Funds bought an estimated 4,000 lots on the day.

'Challenging logistics'

The latest forecasts out, with USDA attaches estimating the Brazilian crop at 70.0m tonnes, and President Cristina Fernandez pegging Argentina's crop at 48m tonnes, were not the stuff to fuel bullishness, being within the range of expectations.

Still, from an export point of view, it does not matter what size South American crops are if they cannot leave port.

A dockworkers' strike in Argentina, something of an annual ritual, issued a reminder of the logistical problems which the country faces.

"Logistics remain a challenging factor for the [grains] supply chain and should not be underestimated in export cost calculations," RMI Analytics advised.

This when Brazil is suffering port congestion too, giving China, the top soybean importer, an extra incentive to pushed more trade America's way.

Which is what seems to be happening, with China largely behind US weekly export sales of nearly 1m tonnes, old and new crop combined, well above market expectations.

'Concern for demand'

Corn

did not manage to follow suit, with funds selling 7,000 contracts in the grain, amid worries over consumption.

"Ethanol margins remain poor and are a concern for demand," US Commodities said.

Data on Wednesday showed US ethanol production falling 2.5%, or 23,000 barrels a day, in the last week to less than 900,000 barrels a day, the lowest since October.

Inventories rose 2% to 22m barrels.

As for livestock use, "the winter has been better which encourages feed efficiency", the broker said.

"This all adds up to larger stocks one March 30," when the US Department of Agriculture reveals quarterly grain stocks data.

Modest exports

At least "the stronger corn exports are helping to balance this", US Commodities added, although there was mixed news on this too, with export sales coming in at 509,000 tonnes, old and new crop combined, only just scraping into the range of market forecasts.

And strong oil prices, with Brent crude up 3.8% on the day, back above $127 a barrel, gave hope for ethanol margins ahead, putting some limit on corn's slide.

The best-traded May lot fell 0.6% to $6.54 a bushel, while the new crop December lot closed down 0.3% at $5.66 ¾ a bushel.

(In the US battle for acres, that allowed November soybeans to reassert their attractions, adding 0.4% to $12.94 ¼ a bushel, and rebuilding the soybean: corn ratio to 2.28.)

Fibre reverses

They gained over

cotton

too, another participant in the US spring sowing war, which fell 0.3% to 90.88 cents a pound in New York for the new crop December lot.

The best-traded May contract dropped 0.9% to 89.67 cents a pound after a poor set of weekly export data, at 78,000 running bales less than half those of the previous week.

And this after ideas of weak sowings in China, highlighted by a rise in its price for state buy-ins, had got the fibre off to a good start.

'Hard to buy into that concern'

Cotton performed even worse than Chicago

wheat

, which lost 0.6% to $6.64 a bushel for May delivery, despite getting some support earlier on from a surprise sale to Iran of 120,000 tonnes of the grain.

This was the first US wheat sale to Iran since 2009, and especially surprising given the tensions between the two countries.

While there was "more discussion in the wheat market with drought in Europe, it is really hard to buy into that concern at this time", Darrell Holaday at Country Futures said, (even if the weather has got serious enough to begin skewing the land market in the UK).

Wheat lost ground in London too, falling 0.4% to £166.65 a tonne for May delivery, but was helped in Paris by a weak euro, sapped by the European Central Bank's cheap loans to eurozone banks.

Paris wheat for May ended up 0.7% at E209.75 a tonne.

'Should homes be found...'

Back in New York, raw

sugar

eased 0.6% to 24.85 cents a pound for May delivery, in its first day as the spot contract, as traders pondered whether Cargill would be able to get shot of its huge receipt of the sweetener, bought against the expired March contract.

"Preliminary figures are showing that one receiver, Cargill, took 17,325 contracts, around 880,000 tonnes of sugar," Nick Penney at Sucden Financial said.

"The deliverers include practically every major trade house involved in sugar and the origins were various including 4,200 lots of Centre South Brazil at a time when the market is discussing potential delays in the beginning of the Brazil Centre South harvest.

"Should homes be found for this sugar, then the recent price increase - and potential further increases - will have been justified."

Coffee perks up

But

coffee

recouped early losses to close up 0.4% at 204.10 cents a pound for May after the International Coffee Organization warned that tight stocks, and strong demand, made for strong prices ahead.

The ICO slashed its estimate for production in Vietnam, the second-ranked producer, by 1m bags to boot.

By Agrimoney.com

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