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Evening markets: weather spares grains from global sell-off

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Just as many were wondering whether investors were giving up on agricultural commodities, along came weather fears to get the bull story back on the road.

It was an unpromising day that


chose to lead the complex on its revival.

What with China raising its reserve requirements for bank loans for the fourth time this year (ie one a month), to a whopping 20.5% in an effort to tackle inflation, even at the expense of economic growth – and implied commodity demand.

Then Standard & Poor's sent investors in most risk assets running for shelter by revising down its outlook on its US credit rating to "negative", meaning the spread of downgrades around smaller eurozone economies may, possibly, be heading its way across the Atlantic to the biggest economy of them all.

In fact, eurozone debt fears remained extant with reports that Greece had asked the IMF and the European Union to restructure its sovereign debt – another reason for investors to embrace caution.

Rally fades

The Greece report was cited as one reason for the, apparently contrary, trend in the


, which strengthened, 1.2% against a basket of currencies, despite S&P's move.

Whatever, the dollar's rise added another hardship to the cause of dollar-denominated commodities, making them more expensive to buyers in other currencies.

So, with London shares closing down 2.1% and Wall Street stocks showing losses approaching 1.5% in late deals, investors in raw


might have considered themselves lucky to get away with the 0.8% fall they did, to 24.40 cents a pound, in New York's May contract.

In fact, the sweetener had been positive earlier on, helped by growing hopes for Chinese demand, crystallised by Australia & New Zealand Bank.

'Irreversible damage'

As for grains' hopes, even those who have been warning over lower prices, such as Matthew Pierce at PitGuru, seemed to have lost hope early on.

"The world seems to want to keep markets down," he said, adding that he continued "to support the upside in spite of my recent personal beatings".

But that was before the concerns over weather, sparked by the removal of rain from forecasts for the worryingly dry US hard red winter wheat country on the southern Plains, kicked in.

"The southern Plains are turning back to a warm dry pattern," US Commodities said, noting that conditions were dry for wheat giants the European Union and China too.

"This is not what is desired as more wheat will move to the heading stage. If the pattern persists, irreversible damage will occur."

With Texas among drought-plagued areas, new crop


rose too, adding 1.1% to 130.63 cents a pound in New York, despite the economic slowdown move by China, the top buyer of the fibre.

Sowing delays?

Of course, there will be rain, but where it is not wanted, on the more northern US areas trying to progress spring sowings.

"The US


planting pace will be strong in the southern areas, but the prospects in the northern half of the Corn Belt for planting are not good," Darrell Holaday at Country Futures said, adding that this was true for spring wheat too.

Indeed, Minneapolis-traded spring wheat added 2.8% to $9.14 a bushel for May, with, in Chicago, May corn adding 1.3% to $7.51 ¾ a bushel.

The lot has not only lost its, brief, premium over Chicago wheat, but lost some of its advantage over the new crop December corn contract too, which continued to outperform on the fears for sowings, and closed 1.9% higher at $6.68 ¼ a bushel.

London record


, meanwhile, returned to a gentle upward move in Chicago, supported by spillover buying from the grains – funds bought an estimated 4,000 lots in the oilseed, besides 5,000 in wheat and 12,000 in corn – besides the better hopes for South America's harvest and risks to China's demand from its economy moves.

And this was a trend echoed in Europe too, where Paris's main oilseed, rapeseed, added 1.1% to E465.75 a tonne for May delivery while grains did better.

The May wheat contracts closed up 3.3% at E246.00 a tonne, gaining extra help from the stronger dollar/weaker euro.

London wheat for May closed up 2.7% at £212.50 a tonne - a new record for a spot contract, with continued anecdotal evidence is coming across of uncomfortably tight stocks, after that strong start to the 2010-11 export campaign,

Data later

Still, of course, tomorrow is another day, and a Tuesday, which in Chicago, traders often view with some caution, the day having a reputation for turning around strong trends seen in the previous session.

Much may depend on the outcome of US crop progress data, which analysts expect to show corn sowings 7-10% complete, compared with 19% in that near-perfect spring sowing period a year ago.

As for winter wheat, the dearth of rain is seen making it unlikely that the hard red winter crop has shown much improvement.


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