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Evening markets: wheat fights back, closing discount to corn

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The negative sentiment around France's election result dwindled later on Monday, allowing agricultural commodities to end the day in far better shape than they began it.

Not that all closed in positive territory. Chicago

soybeans

were notable losers, shedding 1.2% to close at $13.53 ½ a bushel for the November contract, amid talk that weekly US Department of Agriculture crop progress data will show US farmers getting 20% of their crop in the ground as of Sunday, well above the 12% average.

Fast sowings are viewed as increasing yield prospects, besides Informa Economics' upgrade on Friday to its forecast area for US soybean plantings.

'Negative tone'

Furthermore there are some worries about the oilseeds' technicals – a much-watched factor for those seeking clues on when speculators might unwind their record net long in soybeans, a process which would bring sharp price falls.

"Charts have a negative tone and this has caused some to question if a top has not been put in," FCStone said.

"Even though fundamentals are still bullish a sharp pullback is not out of the question with the size of the speculative long position."

The July lot gained some support from the USDA's announcement, through its daily reporting system, of further export sales of old crop soybeans, 110,000 tonnes to "unknown".

Even so, the contract ended down 0.9%, at $14.65 ¾ a bushel.

'Basis on fire'

That was worse than

corn

did, amid talk of a strong US cash market.

"Corn basis is the story this week," at least ahead of the USDA's benchmark Wasde crop report on Thursday, Matthew Pierce, GrainAnalyst trader, said, terming the central Illinois and Gulf markets "on fire".

"Central Illinois is trading $0.50-a-bushel-plus over futures for spot, and nothing is moving."

The basis may be even more, at $0.60 a bushel, according to US Commodities, who also said it was "on fire", a factor reflected in the premium of the soon-to-expire May contract over the July lot.

"May/July corn spread has moved to an all-time record of $0.49 bushel," the broker said.

In fact the spread had narrowed a little to $0.45 a bushel by the end of the day, with the July lot closing down 0.25 cents at $6.20 a bushel, and the May contract up 0.4% at $6.65 a bushel.

'Screeching halt'

The new crop December contract closed unchanged at $5.24 ¾ a bushel, rebounding after matching its 13-month low of $5.15 a bushel set earlier, gaining some support from the persistent US rain.

"Corn planting, on the fast track last week, has come to a screeching halt, due to very heavy weekend rainfall – three-to-six inches in Minnesota and two-to-four inches in Iowa," Gail Martell at Martell Crop Projections said.

Farmers in Iowa, the top US corn-growing state, still have some fair seedings to make, unlike those in neighbouring Illinois, which received thunderstorms today.

"No doubt the heavy rainfall is linked to an emerging El Nino signal," Ms Martell added.

'Attractive to end-users'

Wheat

was in fact ended the strongest of Chicago's big three, amid thoughts that the tumble in prices – the July lot closed on Friday at a contract low – may have gone too far, given firm corn values.

"Wheat has reached price levels that are attractive to end-users, especially feeders," Paul Georgy at Allendale said.

"Corn still costs $6.75-7.00 a bushel in the Kansas feeding areas. Wheat will likely cost $6.00 or less. This will impact corn feed use in the US significantly in the final quarter of the crop year, from June to August."

GrainAnalyst's Matt Pierce said that while short positions appeared appropriate in wheat, which is in ample supply worldwide, "wheat is a market that loves to hurt people, and the way it can do that now is rally".

'Early disappointing yields'

FCStone's Mike O'Dea said: "The contrarian in me wants to look for a bounce in wheat as we have thrown a ton of bearish fundamentals at it and the fund short is venerable to a covering rally."

And there was some turn upward in the fundamentals, with the improving ideas for US wheat yields going into reverse.

"Trade is talking about a smaller soft red winter wheat crop on reduced acres and early disappointing yields," Mr O'Dea said.

Furthermore, even while rain has cut drought fears in Europe, dryness remains under monitor further east.

"Dry areas in Ukraine and Russia missed the rains over the weekend and temps are above normal, this needs to be watched closely," he said.

Wheat for July closed up 0.4% at $6.06 ¼ a bushel in Chicago, which trades the soft red winter variety, and up 0.7% at $6.41 ¼ a bushel in Kansas, where hard red winter wheat is traded.

Reduced overhang

Some New York soft commodities closed firmer too, including raw

sugar

, which ended up 1.2% at 21.05 cents a pound, continuing a rebound from levels seen oversold, for now.

Besides "speculators cut their net long position in raw sugar futures and options in the week to May 1, for the third straight week, bringing it to the lowest level since January", Lynette Tan at Phillip Futures noted.

The huge net long position has been a disincentive for buyers, given the unfulfilled selling pressure that it represents.

New York

cocoa

for July gained 3.0% to $2,357 a tonne.

'Significant headwind'

However, New York

cotton

struggled to gain from the revived macro-market trend, and ended down 1.5% at 86.67 cents a pound for July delivery, the weakest finish of 2012.

"The recent weakening in the US economy, highlighted by the most recent weakness in US jobs data, combined with ongoing uncertainty in Europe presents a significant headwind for global cotton demand and prices," Luke Mathews at Commonwealth Bank of Australia said.

By Agrimoney.com

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