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Evening markets: weather and Russia put grains on back foot

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managed to make the most of the tailwinds.

And there were a few of these with the euro strengthening, and


weakening, amid hopes for a satisfactory deal among eurozone leaders to tackle the region's crisis. (A weak dollar improves the case for dollar-denominated assets as many farm commodities.)

Stronger oil was another, boosted by confirmation by the International Energy Agency that it would not release more crude from stocks for now.

West Texas Intermediate


rose above $100 a barrel at one point, improving the case for crops, such as sugar, which can be used to make biofuels.

Cricket vs sugar

And sugar was helped too by fresh talk of disappointing cane harvest in Brazil, the top producer and exporter, looking set for its first decline in output for a decade or so (on Czarnikow estimates).

These combined to help raw sugar to a 3.2% jump to 29.85 cents a pound in New York, for October delivery, after an uneventful start which had moved Thomas Kujawa at Sucden Financial to think about cricket.

"The first test at Lords begins today with India playing England and even if it rains it will be more interesting than the market so far," Mr Kujawa said early on.

(Apologies, of course, to our readers in the US and other non-cricket-playing nations who may beg to disagree.)

Weather uncertainty

But other crops found headway harder going, especially amid some confusion about just how perilous the US weather outlook is.

Sure, one model, the GFS, "develops a short term heat dome over the Middle Atlantic states and the eastern Corn Belt over July 28, 29, 30", said.

"If this is correct then these areas especially the eastern Corn Belt would see a few more hot days the temperatures in the middle and upper 90s [Fahrenheit]."

But the other ideas had more in the way of cooler temperatures, and "volatility in the weather outlook has many stepping to the sidelines at current price levels", Benson Quinn Commodities said.

Soft exports

This was especially true of


, for which heat holds the greatest dangers, it being pollination time. (For soybeans, August is the risk month.)

And with weekly US corn export sales coming in at 900,000 tonnes, old crop and new crop combined, at the low end of expectations, Chicago's best-traded December contract fell 1.3% to $6.73 a bushel.

The near-term September lot fell 1.3% to $6.79 ¼ a bushel.

Russian reminder

Still, ironically, that was enough to regain the grain its atypical premium over


, which fell more steeply.

Besides losing the support of its fellow grain corn, which has been the market leader of late, US wheat gained two reminders that it has a job on its hand defending export business.

The first was a lift by Russia to 18m tonnes in its grains export estimate, and the second weekly US export sales which, at a little over 400,000 tonnes, were within the realm of expectations, but the lowest nonetheless since May.

Furthermore, with hot weather not looking such a threat to US spring wheat seedlings, and less noise about rain delays to European and Ukrainian harvests, the quality story which buoyed harder wheat in the last session was much reduced too.

Chicago soft red winter wheat for September dipped 2.8% to $6.77 ¼ a bushel, while Kansas hard red winter wheat for the same month lost 2.5% to $7.74 ¼ a bushel, and the Minneapolis spring wheat equivalent closed down 2.2% at $8.33 ¾ a bushel.

Nor did European contracts fare much better, with Paris wheat for November losing 2.5% to E194.25 a tonne, and its London peer finishing 1.6% lower at £163.00 a tonne.

Argentine downgrade

It was left to


to protect bulls' interest in Chicago, boosted by better export data, at least for its products for which marketings "were well above expectations", Benson Quinn said.

Soymeal's sales were, at above 250,000 tonnes old crop and new, more than three times the most optimistic analysts' hopes, with soyoil's number of 19,000 tonnes approaching twice the top estimates.

Argentina added extra spice by lowering by 800,000 tonnes, to 48.8m tonnes, its forecast for domestic production of the oilseed in 2010-11.

And China's soybean imports in June of 4.3m tonnes were, while down 31% year on year, higher than many had feared, positing "a rebound from the year's lows of 2.3m tonnes hit in February", Sudakshina Unnikrishnan at Barclays Capital noted.

Chicago's August soybean lot added 0.2% to $13.80 ¼ a bushel, while the better traded November contract gained 0.3% to $13.88 a bushel.

Low fibre diet


had less luck. Although cancellations of export sales of old-crop US cotton fell below 7,000 running bales in the latest week, from 91,000 the previous week, sales of new crop cotton dropped too, to 31,000 running bales.

And the trade data from China (the top buyer of the fibre), showing imports hitting a nine-month low of 120,000 tonnes, were even less inspiring.

"The one market where Chinese imports continued to reflect weakness was cotton," Ms Unnikrishnan said.

"Exports dropped as well and at 1,100 tonnes were at their lowest since December. The weakness in Chinese cotton import demand has been a key factor putting a dampener on international prices which have more than halved from their peaks hit in February."

New York's September contract closed down 1.9% at 99.33 cents a pound, while the better traded December lot shed 2.1% to 98.63 cents a pound.


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