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Evening markets: wheat plunges, but China talk supports corn

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The country which brought the world the opposing forces of yin and yang blew a bit of hot and cold on agricultural commodity markets too on Thursday.

The cold was, yet another, lift to China's bank reserve requirements, amid the campaign to quell economic overheating and curb inflation, and a move which restoked concerns for the country's huge appetite for raw materials.

"In the past the effects of these actions have had a short shelf life," Benson Quinn Commodities said.

"However, the entire complex has taken a much weaker tone and most commodities are dealing with a much weaker technical structure."

In fact, a turn lower in the


helped commodities recover some poise, making them more competitive to buyers in other currencies, although many, such as




, struggled to get more than one foot into positive territory.

Beijing bargan hunt?

The hot was a fresh round of rumours that China had bought


, a factor which, given the country's huge appetite for the grain, is viewed with some sensitivity in Chicago.

The circumstantial evidence fitted, remembering corn's limit-down performance in the last session. After all, China proved its opportunistic stream by snapping up US supplies during March's price tumble.

And, a trader told Reuters that the trade "would work for them from December-January forward".

Whatever, the rumour saved the grain from another drubbing, with the old crop July lot recovering from losses of nearly 3% , and the lowest levels for a spot contract for nearly two months, to close up 0.4% at $6.80 ½ a bushel.

The new crop December lot did even better, adding 0.6% to $6.30 ½ a bushel, narrowing to $0.50 its discount over the July lot

'Pathetic sales'

The positive vibes helped feed through to


too, another favourite Chinese import, which bounced back from negative territory to close up 0.8% at $13.42 ¾ a bushel.

This despite weekly US export sales which, at 59,000 tonnes, once again came in well below market expectations and were deemed by Matthew Pierce at PitGuru as "the most pathetic sales numbers in recent memory". (Apart from the previous week's figure of 21,000 tonnes, that is.)

And analysts continued to warm to the forecasts for the oilseed in Wednesday's key US Department of Agriculture Wasde report giving first full forecasts for 2010-11, which pegged stocks at the end of that year at 160m bushels.

"This leaves no room for error," US Commodities said.

"If yield drops 1 bushel per acre the ending stocks are at pipeline minimum of 117m bushels. If the acres drop 1m acres, we are at 84m bushel ending stocks."

'First rain in months'

But corn's recovery found no echo in


, which maintained its downward swing on better a weather outlook for many producing areas.

"Current forecast indicate that many locations in the western Canadian Prairies are expected to experience weather that is much more conducive to planting progress being made," Benson Quinn said.

South of the border in the US, where farmers are also struggling with wet conditions, "the northern plains are going to be cool through the weekend, but sunshine is expected next week".

Meanwhile, rains are forecast for dry areas of Europe and Ukraine. And, crucially, thirsty US hard red winter wheat crops have had a drink too.

"The midday radar shows showers and thunderstorms... over eastern Texas and is bringing significant rain the areas which have not seen any rain in several months," said.

Limit down

Hard red winter wheat tumbled 2.6% to 8.76 ¼ a bushel in Kansas, for July, with soft red winter wheat dropping 3.1% to $7.35 ½ a bushel in Chicago.

Minneapolis spring wheat for July dipped 2.2% to $9.04 ¾ a bushel.

And Texas rains were also bad news for


prices, if good news for farmers, given the drought threat that the USDA highlighted in Wednesday's Wasde.

Cotton closed down the maximum 6 cents a pound allowed in New York for both the July lot, which closed at the lowest for a spot contract for nearly four months, and the new crop December lot, which finished at 119.19 cents a pound.

Rain in Brazil

Other soft commodity futures did better, including


, which gained initial help from the tried and tested idea that if all investors are saying the same thing, the opposite must be true.

"The sugar market commentators seem to have turned bearish or rather confirmed a bearish outlook this morning so there is a little niggle of doubt from the feeling that everyone is the same way," Thomas Kujawa at Sucden Financial said.

The niggle turned out to be right, with industry data later showing a 69% slide in sugar production from Brazil's Centre South region in the season up to May 1, as rains hindered cane cuttings, and mills turned what they had largely to ethanol.

New York sugar finished 1.9% higher at 21.33 cents a pound for July.

..and Colombia too



for July added 0.7% to 274.95 cents a pound, helped by data showing a 19% slide in Colombian production in April, thanks to, yet more, heavy rains.



slid 2.6% to $3,037 a tonne for July, undermined by growing expectations for resumed exports of the bean from top producer Ivory Coast. Olam International stoked the talk by estimating the country will ship 150,000 tonnes in May and June.

Technical signals were poor too, after the contract fell below its 200-day moving average line.


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