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Evening markets: weather risk helps crops as shares dip anew

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As you were.

Was it because investors lost faith in the idea that Ben Bernanke's Jackson Hole speech on Friday will come with the goods?

Whatever, markets reverted to their more "risk off" stance.

It was textbook stuff.


fell 1.4% in London and 1.7% in Frankfurt, and 1.7% lower on Wall Street too in late deals.



gained, up 0.4% against a basket of currencies, as investors sought a so-called safe haven.


climbed back above ,750 an ounce, recouping all its losses earlier in the session and some of those from Wednesday too.

Worrisome weather

And, continuing the reversion theme, investors treated agricultural commodities lightly too when it came to liquidation, with a turn in weather forecasts to hotter and drier patterns encouraging a bullish outlook.

"Dry weather remains worrisome for late-maturing


in central Midwest where pods are still filling," but which is seen staying dry until the end of August, Benson Quinn Commodities said.

"Above-normal temperatures are seen returning in the six-to-10 day forecast, which could push maturity of



'More and more like the dust bowl'

Nor is the outlook helpful to


. At PitGuru, Matthew Pierce said: "The only area in the US that really does not need rain is North Dakota," where farmers are trying to harvest spring wheat.

"That's the only rain we are looking for over the next 10 days."

In the South, where rain is needed ahead of sowings of winter wheat due next month, "drought stress has taken a toll and looks to add additional damage over the next couple weeks, with the South West looking more and more like the dust bowl", Mr Pierce added.

"Hard red winter wheat planting is becoming the next major fundamental event, with weather saying to farmers: 'Don't bother'."

Aussie threat

OK, the news on wheat was not all bullish, with US wheat export sales coming in at 350,000 tonnes, well below market forecasts.

And Australia is looking an increasingly bearish force. Not only are hopes for output recovering, with forecasts for a moist spring, but the country popped up as a serious contender in the latest Egyptian wheat tender.

Naturally Russia won orders amounting to 240,000 tonnes (priced at about 5 a tonne), taking total purchases from Egypt since the start of last month to nearly 1.6m tonnes. Romania got 60,000 tonnes on top (at 8.98 a tonne).

But Australian wheat got close, offered at 3 a tonne, cheaper than US supplies, albeit facing higher shipping charges on top.

Kansas leads

Still, Chicago wheat closed up 1.1% at .57 ¼ a bushel, after matching a two-month high of .64 a bushel earlier.

And Kansas hard red winter wheat, the type directly threatened by the drought in the US South, added 1.5% to .47 ¾ a bushel, a clear two-month closing top.

Minneapolis spring wheat was a relative laggard, adding 0.9% to .34 ¾ a bushel, held back somewhat by Wednesday's upbeat official estimate for Canada's crop, and with, as Mr Pierce put it "commercials have taken the screws off the shorts" by completing purchases for now.

European contracts were positive too, lifted by the best weekly EU wheat export figure of the crop year, of 326,000 tonnes, besides looking reasonably competitive in the Egyptian tender. (Some French wheat was offered at less than 5 a tonne, within a tonne of the Russian pace, and cheaper than US wheat was going for.)

Paris's November lot added 1.0% to E208.75 a tonne, a two-month closing high for a spot contract, while London wheat gained 0.6% to £169.95 a tonne, the best since early July.

Tour findings

That was better than Chicago corn could manage, with the forecast for poor weather offset to some degree by disappointing US weekly export sales, of a little over 550,000 tonnes old crop and new, and some better news from the ProFarmer crop tour from Iowa, where yield prospects were better than average.

Chicago's December lot closed up 0.1% at .32 ¼ a bushel.

The Iowa data, and soft US weekly export sales, set back soybeans too, despite some upbeat crush data, showing 129.6m bushels.

"It now appears that the [2010-11] crush may be slightly larger than the current projection," Darrel Good, at the University of Illinois, said.

"The larger crush in July suggests that stocks could be marginally smaller" than the USDA is projecting.

Nonetheless, November soybeans ended 0.75 cents lower at .92 ¾ a bushel.

Brazil vs the rest of the world

Soft commodities couldn't keep up with the grains.

But they did finish well above their lows, helped, in


case, by data showing output in Brazil's key Center South region continuing a slower pace than the market had expected.

Sugar output had reached 17.4m tonnes by August 16, down 11% year on year, cane industry group Unica said, without output in the last fortnight remaining below year-ago levels, by 3.4%.

"Prices and sentiment are likely to remain choppy, swinging between the implications of a weak Brazilian crop on the one hand and robust supply growth across other key producers on the other," Sudakshina Unnikrishnan at Barclays Capital said.

So it proved on Thursday, with the Unica data helping New York's October raw sugar contract recover from losses of more than 4% at one stage to end at 29.66 cents a pound, down 1.7% on the day.

'Tired and vulnerable'



continued its quiet rally, with New York's benchmark December contract adding 0.6% to 275.50 cents a pound, the highest close since early June.

The improvement has been viewed as being largely technical in nature, with speculators covering notable levels of short positions at a period when the bean often enjoys a seasonal upswing, coming out of the pressure from the main Brazilian harvest period.

However, there are some nerves at the extent of the gains.

At PitGuru, Jurgens Bauer remained alert for a "bout of profit-taking."

"The market seems tired and vulnerable," he added.


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