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Evening markets: wheat prices rise as 'panic buying' sets in

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OK, some late profit-taking bought the grain back to earth.

At one point, Minneapolis


for July was 5.7% higher, at $10.78 a bushel, the highest for a spot contract for nearly three years.

Still, the close at $10.45 ¾ a bushel kept the lot's gains at a respectable 2.5%, and indeed was the highest finish for the wheat, of the hard red spring variety, since July 2008.

"Weather risks and low inventories paint a bullish backdrop for the grains and the market has been underestimating supply implications," Sudakshina Unnikrishnan at Barclays Capital said.

And this on what was a difficult day for many other commodities, after data showed the US economy growing, on an annualised basis, at 1.8% in the first three months of the year, less than economists had expected.

New York


lost 1.1% to just over $100 a barrel in late deals, despite help from


weakness, making dollar-denominated assets more competitive. The


index overall shed 0.3%.

'Panic buying'

But for wheat, there was "some panic buying finally surfacing because of the continued delays in the Northern Plains" in sowing the spring variety, Darrell Holaday at Country Futures said.

"The surprise to us has been how slow the market has been to recognise the seriousness of the problems in the north," which are being caused by wet weather preventing heavy machinery getting onto fields.

It is a problem north of the border too, with "moisture in the south Canadian plains now bringing talk to the market that we may see a 30+% reduction in overall expected acreage", Matthew Pierce, at PitGuru, said.

Then there is the continued dry weather in northern Europe, which prompted crop institute Arvalis to lift to "more than 10%", from "far more than 5%", is forecast for the drought damage to the soft wheat harvest in France, the European Union's top producer.

"There is talk about an EU wheat crop that could drop below 130m tonnes," Mr Holaday said.

"If that happens, it is very supportive as it could result in EU being completely out of the export market and may have to actually buy some foreign wheat. "

'Drinking water a major concern'

And that's before China reappeared in the headlines, with local reports of the worst drought in 50 years.

"The Yangtze River region is hardest hit with drinking water a major concern," Mr Pierce said, noting that 3.2m acres of farmland were believed affected, "with no [rain] relief seen on radar returns".

The weather concerns more than made up for mixed US export data for wheat, with cancellations of old crop – as might be expected for a period which included the start of the latest uptick.

Chicago wheat for July added 2.3% to $8.14 ½ a bushel, while Kansas's July contract gained 1.5% to $9.42 ¾ a bushel.

And European contracts showed healthy gains too. Paris wheat for November, the best-traded lot, added 3.3% to E252.75 a tonne, while London's November lot gained 2.7% to £198.50 a tonne.

Indeed, the contract has now decidedly reversed its discount over the July lot, which added 1.7% to £196.00 a tonne, a change which reflects the summer mothballing of the UK's Ensus plant, Europe's biggest wheat ethanol maker.

'Welcome event'



was less impressive, closing up 0.4% to $7.45 ½ a bushel for July.

But then the dry weather window in US areas below spring wheat country is looking increasingly favourable to sowings.

"The US and EU weather models agree that a shift to drier six-to-10 day forecast is expected after Sunday for the central US," US Commodities said, terming the change a "welcome event" for farmers.

That took some of the wind out of the sails of solid weekly US export sales figures, with the US Department of Agriculture announcing, through its daily reporting system, a further 168,000 tonnes of new crop corn sold to Mexico.

Bouncing beans

And if hopes for corn sowings are looking better, the risks of farmers switching to


, which are later sown, are lower.

That helped the oilseed get over further soft export sales data, of less than 160,000 tonnes old and new crop combined, "on the low side of trade estimates", and industry data pegging the US soybean crush at 128m bushels.

That was 1m bushels below expectations, besides being down 9m bushels year on year.

July soybeans added 0.9% to $13.84 ¾ a bushel.

Raw vs white

Soft commodities closed generally higher, if without spectacular gains.


was helped to a rise of 0.2%, to 22.69 cents a pound for July by industry data showing a 47% drop in output from Brazil's key Centre South region so far in 2011-12.

Furthermore, white sugar's premium over raw sugar has been growing. This premium is often considered a leading indicator for the market's direction in general.

"Having been influenced of late by other commodity activity, sugar at least now has its own near-term reasons for rallying off the lows," Nick Penney at Sucden Financial said.

"The whites market often leads in these circumstances."

London white sugar for August added 0.4% to $650.00 a tonne.

'They are clueless'

Cocoa and coffee showed small gains in New York too, helped by the weaker dollar.

The odd one out was


, which lost early gloss to tank 3.2% to 151.03 cents a pound in New York, for July delivery, with the new crop lot down 2.9% to 127.57 cents a pound.

"The Texas drought is real and extreme. Georgia is fast becoming the same way. Farmers will likely lose some cotton in the Memphis territory," Jurgens Bauer at PitGuru noted.

Sure, these may appear bullish pointers, but...

"I made an effort to reach out to some respected old line cotton traders to hear their take on the market," he said.

"Now these are all guys who knew their stuff and knew the market, yet none of them can explain the action traders see in cotton. They are clueless, so who am I to carry on as though I can explain. I cannot."


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