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Evening markets: spring wheat takes hit from US acreage data

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Only once since 2010 has Minneapolis spring wheat closed below $8 a bushel, on a front contract basis.

It came within an ace of a second time after Thursday poured bearish pressure on wheat, but especially of the spring kind.

The US Department of Agriculture, updating outline US sowings estimates for 2012-13 released last week (and based on November calculations), raised its idea of total area planted to the main crops by 3.2m acres.

The biggest upgrade was to wheat sowings, which were lifted by 1.5m acres to 58.0m acres, reflecting an idea of a "rebound" in spring crop from last year, "when excessive spring and early summer wetness limited seeding".

More buying

The wheat complex at least had a mixed treatment in a monthly report from the International Grains Council.

The IGC lifted by 7m tonnes to 211m tonnes its estimate for world wheat stocks at the close of 2011-12, albeit a figure a little lower than the USDA's 213m-tonne figure, but cut the forecast for wheat area next season, citing the dryness affecting Ukraine and US winter grains.

And the buying spree continued, with Iran purchasing 800,000 tonnes of Australian and Russian wheat, Tunisia buying 50,000 tonnes of the grain, and Spain once again reported to have bought from the US.

Still, while Chicago soft red winter wheat for March managed to limit its losses to 0.4%, taking the contract to $6.41 ¾ a bushel at the close, Minneapolis's March lot tumbled 2.1% to end at $8.01 a bushel.

Euro strength

Elsewhere, the Kansas March hard red winter wheat contract shed 0.7% to $6.80 a bushel, while Paris wheat reversed gains to end 1.2% lower, for May delivery, at E203.75 a tonne.

A stronger euro, on a better-than-expected reading for the German Ifo business confidence index, added to pressure on Paris commodities, making euro-denominated assets less competitive as exports.

(The dollar, conversely, tumbled 0.7%, putting a positive shine on US exports.)

Sterling rose too, but not as much, limiting to just £0.10 the loss in London's May lot, which ended at £166.40 a tonne.

Ethanol dynamics

The USDA report was neutral for


, coming in at 94.0m acres, the same as last week's outline forecast, and the figure the market had expected.

Which left investors to squabble over other influences, one being the negative of poor weekly ethanol data, showing a tumble in production of 9,000 barrels a day to 919,000 barrels a day, the weakest output since November.

Inventories edged higher to a fresh record high, of 21.5m barrels.

Furthermore, Joseph Glauber, USDA chief economist, sounded a downbeat note for the US ethanol industry, flagging a blend wall of 13.5bn gallons a year for domestic consumption and forecasting a drop in exports to Brazil.

And the International Grains Council forecast a rise in world corn sowings in 2012-13 to a record high, albeit one largely accounted for by extra US acres.

'The whisper number'

But on the bullish side, the US sold 120,000 tonnes of the grain to China, and a further 111,000 tonnes to "unknown destinations", the USDA revealed through its daily reporting system.

And there are ideas that, when the USDA unveils further corn numbers on Friday, they will not be quite as bearish as last week's, which forecast carryover stocks of more than 1.6bn bushels at the end of 2012-13.

For tomorrow, "the whisper number in corn is 1.475bn bushels", Benson Quinn Commodities said.

And Argentina's Rosario grains exchange cut its estimate for the drought-pressed domestic [2011-12] corn crop by 1.6m tonnes to 19.8m tonnes.

The formula was enough to support March corn, which ended 0.2% higher at $6.39 ½ a bushel, but not to prop up the new crop December lot, which tumbled 1.0% to $5.58 ¾ a bushel.

'Rains deemed disappointing'

The Rosario made an even bigger cut to its forecast for the Argentine


harvest, which it downgraded by 5m tonnes to 44.5m tonnes. (The USDA has it at 48.0m tonnes.)

And needed rainfall in southern Brazil isn't living up to promises.

"Potential rains in southern Brazil were deemed disappointing, while the chances for rain later in the week were also reduced," Benson Quinn noted.

This helped soybeans prove the best performer of Chicago's big three despite the USDA lifting by 1.0m acres to 75.0m acres its forecast for sowings of the oilseed this year.

The March lot added 0.4% to $12.76 ¾ a bushel, with the new crop November contract adding 0.3% to $12.67 ¾ a bushel.

Softer softs


made heavier weather of its own upgrade in USDA sowing estimates, with the US area seen allocated to upland cotton lifted by 1.0m acres to 13.0m acres.

New York's May lot closed down 1.4% at 89.23 cents a pound.



tumbled on reports of more exporters ending a boycott of auctions top producer Ivory Coast is introducing to sell a stack of crop ahead and smooth returns to growers, boosting the likelihood of this supply hitting the market.

Cocoa for May dropped 3.9% in New York to end at $2,344 a tonne, and 3.7% in London to closed at $1,519 a tonne.


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