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Evening markets: wheat rises, dismissing Russia export risk

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On the face of it, grain markets chose an unusual day to rally, with two sets of news appearing to mitigate against strong prices.

The first was the declaration by official Australian forecasters that the La Nina, blamed for so many weather woes, from last year's Russian drought to Australia's inundations, was no more.

So that means better weather ahead, bigger crops and so pressure on prices, right?

The second was a comment by Viktor Zubkov, Russian deputy prime minister, that the country was set "in the next few days" to decide whether to extend its grain export ban, amid growing speculation that it will be lifted from July 1.

Ukraine cancelled its grain export quotas to boot, implying that world wheat exporters were about again to face competition from the Black Sea's keenly-priced farm giants.

'Exporter of choice'

Still, they were threats that investors found easy to dismiss, for now at least.

"Is Putin [the Russian prime minister] really going to allow Russian exports until he is sure he has a crop this year worth having?" Jerry Gidel, at North America Risk Management Services, told

Speculation of the ban being lifted was being pressed by traders wanting to sell Russian inventories onto the market at high prices, he added. "Commercials are talking this up."

Benson Quinn Commodities said that, even if Russia did allow exports, "recent indications are wheat exports will be limited to 2m-4m tonnes until more is known about new production".

"This leaves the US as wheat exporter of choice."

Rainy up north

But can it hold there for long, given the weather threats to its wheat crops, faded La Nina or not.

"With weather lowering winter wheat production and delaying spring wheat planting ample US wheat stocks situation could change quickly," the broker said.

And slow spring sowings were at the top of the market agenda, given a side effect of the drier weather coming to open a window for sowings in the lagging eastern Corn Belt.

"This is expected to spin a system into more northern parts, North Dakota and Canada," in other words areas already behind with spring wheat sowings, Mike Mawdsley at Market 1 said.

And "even the heat further south might not be helpful if it fries emerging



Biofuel booster

So spring wheat, traded in Minneapolis, was a notable leader on Wednesday, closing up 3.2% to $10.20 a bushel for July delivery, within an ace of the highest levels for a spot contract since July 2008.

Chicago wheat for July added 2.25 to $7.96 ½ a bushel, with corn adding 1.2% to $7.42 ½ a bushel, also helped by decent weekly ethanol production numbers of 902,000 gallons a day, refined from corn.

"It genuinely looks like the lower numbers we had a few weeks back were down to spring maintenance at ethanol plants," Mr Mawdsley said.


were less reactive, adding 0.4% to $13.77 a bushel.

'Catastrophic yields'

As were European grains, despite more worrying news for farmers in weather forecasts continuing to pull much-needed moisture from the outlook.

"The rainfall will continue to be erratic and not enough to ease the drought," meteorologists at France's Meteo Consult said, adding that May was proving a third successive month of major rain shortfalls in most of France.

Early harvest results were hardly encouraging either, with Paris-based Agritel reporting that "the first cuts of winter barley began yesterday in the Charentes region with catastrophic yields".

"The first cuts took place in dry lands and more time will be needed to know the final average yield," the consultancy added.

Still, Paris wheat managed a rise of a modest 1.6% to E244.75 a tonne for November delivery, with London's November lot adding 0.9% to £193.25 a tonne, perhaps restrained by the a forecast of a sharp decline in UK exports implied in stocks data.

Mills and speculators buy

Among soft commodities,


put in another bravura performance, storming 4.4% ahead to 131.35 cents a pound in New York, with the old crop July lot adding 1.4% to 156.03 cents a pound.

"A production risk premium as well as some bargain hunter-buying by both mills and speculators has been supportive," Rabobank said, if being less upbeat about the fibre's prospects.

"While the market may be generating some support from the dry growing conditions in the US, most price direction appears to be a function of larger than expected crops in China, Pakistan, and India."

And talk in India is of sufficient supplies to allow extra exports, which might "enter a market with uncertain demand and could push values lower".

Commerzbank recommendation

The bank was less nuanced on


, if noting supportive factors such as concerns about Brazilian output, the prospect of more EU imports, and Chinese data showing buy-ins up 841% year on year in April.

Still, Commerzbank was upbeat on prospects for the sweetener, after its 40% decline since February, helping New York raw sugar jump 3.3% to 22.64 cents a pound for July delivery.


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