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Evening markets: weak dollar powers crops higher

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Fresh weakness in the dollar put commodities back on the front foot, helping soybeans and cocoa to multi-month highs and sending volatile wheat back into an upswing.

The dollar lost ground against both euro, which topped $1.4050, and sterling as fears waned of an imminent rise in interest rates.

That spurred buying in a broad range of commodities, including one of its standard bearers – oil – which, for New York crude at least, crossed back above $70 a barrel. The July contract stood 3.0% higher at $70.16 a barrel at 18:30 GMT, with Brent crude for July delivery up 2.5% at $69.59 a barrel.

"The dollar is down, and that's supporting everything," Vic Lespinasse, Chicago market watcher for GrainAnalyst.com, said.

Soybean spread

Among Chicago grains, soybeans stole the headlines by closing at $12.44 ½ a bushel, for the July contract, the highest for a benchmark lot for more than nine months.

Official US figures on Wednesday are expected to show America's soybean stocks, sapped by strong Chinese buying dropping to a five-year low of 114m bushels. Many analysts believe the fall will leave inventories near the 32-year low of 103m bushels.

However, the July contract's 11.75 cent rise was outpaced new crop lots. March 2010 soybeans, for instance, soared 24.5 cents to $10.80 a bushel. That may be a sign that investors are banking on buyers deferring purchases rather than locking into near-term beans at a large premium.

Springing wheat

And even that was overshadowed, in percentage terms, by wheat, which soared 16.5 cents to $6.14 ½ a bushel, continuing its recent spell of volatility.

That appeared linked to technical reasons rather than fundamentals, traders said, with Kazakhstan saying it expected an extra 15-20% from this year's grain harvest.

The same went for rough rice, which soared 3.9% to $12.955 a hundredweight despite widespread expectations of a rapid rebuilding of global rice stocks.

Corn, which didn't suffer quite the recent correction as wheat, didn't enjoy the rebound either, adding 2.1% to $4.43 ¼ a bushel, modestly beating new crop contracts.

'Inflation hedge'

Among softs, the thud of the declining greenback levered New York cocoa back above $2,800 a tonne at one point for the first time in four months, although the benchmark September contract ended at $2,792 a tonne, up 2.7% on the day.

"The dollar is the main driver at the moment - people are looking for an inflation hedge," Rabobank trader Nick Hungate told Reuters, the news agency.

Stronger sterling held back cocoa somewhat in London, where the September contract closed up £20 at £1,785 a tonne.

New York sugar also closed higher, up 1.2% to 15.52 cents a pound for the July contract, with coffee adding 0.9% to 131.25 cents a pound for Arabica beans.

By Mike Verdin

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