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Evening markets: stronger dollar presses on farm commodities

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Some blamed it on Greece.

Others cited a role for Muammar Gadaffi, the Libyan leader, whose "wounding", according to a rumour spread by Italy's foreign minister Franco Frattini, certainly kept oil traders on edge.

Whatever, Friday turned into something of a risk-off day, sending the


soaring 0.7% against a basket of currencies, and to a six-week high against the euro, despite some decent economic data.

France's economy grew by 1.5% in the first quarter, and Germany's by 1%, considered good performances while, in the US, April consumer inflation figures were, at 3.2%, not considered that bad (0.1 points above expectations).

But cause or effect, the day witnessed a tendency to retreat from riskier assets. While equities bore a lot of the damage, with Wall Street stocks down 0.8% in late deals, agricultural commodities played their part too.

Rains on the Plains

There were fair fundamental reasons to get out of wheat, what with saying that weather models for May 20-21 show "widespread heavy rains", of one-to-four inches for "80% of the eastern third of Colorado all of Kansas - the entire state".

That is, many of the hard red winter wheat areas in desperate need of rain.

And some areas are already getting precipitation. "There is a pretty big thunderstorm cluster over south western Texas that's dropping heavy rain," the weather service added.

(That was bad news too for prices of cotton, of which Texas is the top growing state, and where high abandonment rates had looked likely. New crop December cotton slid 3.0% to 115.61 cents a pound in New York.)

EU vs US

In some of Europe's dry areas there is rain forecast too, with the six-to-10 day outlook showing a "dry warm pattern" but with a "major rain event for eastern France and Germany" in the 11-to-15 day timescale.

That said, forecasts so far ahead are apt to change. And with the weaker euro, Paris wheat contracts ended higher, with the new crop November lot adding 1.1% to E225.75 a tonne.

London's November lot gained 1.6% to £175.25 a tonne, despite the shutdown at the Ensus bioethanol plant which undermined near term lots. July wheat shed 1.1% to £187.00 a tonne.

That was more like the kind of performance seen in US markets, where Chicago wheat for July shed 1.1% to $7.27 ¾ a bushel, while its Kansas peer lost 0.8% to $8.69 ½ a bushel and Minneapolis wheat for July closed down 0.5% to $9.00 ¼ a bushel.

More sowing hold-ups?

The forecasts were more price supportive for


, making for "delayed planting of corn and soybeans this weekend and again in the second week of the outlook", according to Benson Quinn Commodities.

Still, with next week looking better, and farmers estimated to have got 55-60% of their corn in the ground as of two days' time, up potentially 20 points week on week, investors did not get too excited.

New crop December corn shed 0.6% to $6.27 a bushel.

'Back at a buy zone'

Old crop July corn managed a positive close, up 0.2% at $6.82 a bushel, after the US confirmed in daily trade news that it had sold 260,000 tonnes of the grain to an "unknown" destination, widely believed to be China following speculation on Thursday of Chinese purchases.

Other buyers, such as South Korea, have certainly been stepping in.

Nonetheless, the "China" corn purchase number was short of the 1m tonnes that had been rumoured, although, as US Commodities pointed out, the last time China purchased corn it took several days to confirm".

The broker added that this deal "was also at a price between $6.15 and $6.60 a bushel. So yesterday's push to $6.59 a bushel is back at a buy zone".


fell for both old and new crop. The July contract lost 1.0% to $13.29 ½ a bushel, with the November lot closing 1.1% lower at $13.10 ¾ a bushel.

The oilseed is currently in a bit of a fix of "damned if it rains", which may force US farmers to switch from corn to soybeans, which can be later planted, and "damned if it doesn't", when growers will progress with soybean sowings and underpin yield potential.

Juice sweetens again

Among soft commodities,


fell for later delivery, down 0.3% to 21.44 cents a pound for October delivery, as both Czarnikow and the International Sugar Organisation forecast a return to surplus in 2011-12. (The ISO is looking for one in 2012-13 too.)

However, with Brazilian industry data out late on Thursday showing a 69% slide in output, albeit largely down to one-off factors, the July lot added 0.6% to close at 21.45 cents a pound – regaining, just, a premium.

Orange juice

was altogether more convincing, up 3.3% at 182.85 cents a pound for July delivery, a two month closing high for a spot contract, raised by those rare words these days – buying by speculators.


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