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Evening markets: weather fears help grains hang on to gains

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The downgrades for Argentine crops continued, this time at the hands of the Buenos Aires grains exchange, which reduced its estimate for the domestic soybean harvest to 43m tonnes, within the range of recent forecasts.

What was more notable was a cut to 19.8m tonnes in its estimate for the corn harvest, below the US Department of Agriculture's forecast of a 21.5m tonne crop in the world's second-ranked exporter of the grain.

(Although an Argentine figure like 19.8m tonnes suggest that Ukraine may take that title clear instead.)

'Zero deliveries'

The estimate was another reason for investors to feel more upbeat about corn prices on a day which provided some others too, including the technical reasons cited earlier.

There was continued talk about Chinese buying of corn, even beyond that already revealed.

And this at a time of a tight US cash market, which prompted US Gulf shippers to withdraw offers, leaving none for shipments in April, June and July.

It is not as if producers are saving their grain for cashing against futures with, according to US Commodities, "zero deliveries" expected against Chicago's May contract (and soybean contract too) when the expiry process begins on Monday.

'Buying opportunity'

Furthermore, the weather turned in favour of old crop corn too, in that frost is expected in the US soft red winter


districts tonight, threatening 10% of the crop, according to Commodity Weather Group.

The strong early development of US soft red winter wheat (the type traded in Chicago) and the prospect of an early harvest has, in provoking ideas of timely fresh grain supplies, been one reason corn prices have failed to hold on to the gains that many have been expected, given tight supplies.

But the feeling that Goldman Sachs articulated earlier in the week, that the correction in corn had gone too far, chimed with Thursday's market mood.

At Barclays Capital, Kate Yang said: "We would expect that the recent slide in old crop corn prices would be viewed as a buying opportunity, with old crop corn supplies remaining tight."

Chicago's May contract added 2.1% to $6.24 a bushel, with the July lot gaining 1.1% to $6.07 ½ a bushel.

'Trade starting to pay attention'

If that was one support for fellow grain wheat, the crop also had others, one being the threat to the US crop, and growing concerns over the dry weather in eastern Europe and in the former Soviet Union too.

In the former Soviet Union, "temperatures continue to warm up across the Ukraine and all of the western half of Russia into Kazakhstan as the Ridge in the Jet stream continue to increase in size and intensity,", but rain has been sparse, if arriving at all.

At broker Allendale, Paul Georgy said: "The trade is starting to pay attention to the recent drying trend in the eastern Ukraine, Russia, and Kazakhstan with no rain in the forecast for the next 10 days."

As for eastern Europe, the International Grains Council cited the region's winterkill rates and dry spring, now moving east, as the reason for a 5m-tonne cut to its forecast for world wheat production in 2012-13.

Chicago vs Minneapolis

There was a signal sign of demand too, with Iraq buying 300,000 tonnes of wheat at tender, if of Australian, Canada and Kazakh origin.

Whatever, it was enough to keep on edge the speculators, which have large net short position in the grain in Chicago, where the May contract closed up 1.5% at $6.26 a bushel, and the July lot up 1.4% at $6.35 ½ a bushel.

Indeed, signally hard red spring wheat fell in Minneapolis, where a net short position is not an issue, nor the weather so much, with US farmers speeding ahead at a record pace in sowings.

The Minneapolis July contract fell 1.7% to $7.73 a bushel, with the May lot down 1.9% at $7.67 ¾ a bushel, the lowest finish for a spot lot since November 2010.

'A negative for soybeans'

So for once, grains outperformed soybeans. Indeed, they were beneficiaries of the unwinding of more "long soybean/short corn or wheat" spreads.

"Nothing bearish for soybeans but profit taking was taking place for most of the day," Mike Mawdsley at Market 1 said.

After all, the oilseed had on its side, besides South America concerns, strong US weekly export sales, of 1.4m tonnes, old crop and new.

But that was a week ago. Have higher prices since put buyers off?

"The lack of any sales in the daily report has been seen as negative for the soybean complex today," Darrell Holaday at Country Futures said.

Soybeans for July closed up 0.3% at $14.80 ¼ a bushel.

'Far-reaching effects'

Among soft commodities, it was


turn for an up day, boosted by reports of unrest in Ivory Coast, the main producing and exporting country, where gunmen killed five people in an attach on a border town.

"Any extended supply disruption from that nation would have far-reaching effects around the globe," Terry Roggensack at Hightower Report said.

Furthermore, there is talk that output in Cameroon, a major producer, may fall 10-20%.

Cocoa for July added 0.9% to $2,272 a tonne in New York.

'Lack of bullish supply news'

But New York


lost a further 0.5% to 175.85 cent a pound for July, amid talk of producer selling, ahead of a large Brazilian harvest.

"A lack of bullish supply news has kept the market's focus on a potentially record-sized Brazilian coffee crop later on this year, and kept the coffee prices from sustaining any strong move above the longer-term downtrend," Mr Roggensack said.

Furthermore, there may have been a hangover he said from the "severe downdraft" in the last session which, for the first time, triggered an exchange so-called circuit breaker, designed to kick in in times of extreme volatility to avoid anomalous trades.


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