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Evening markets: wheat sweats at futures market 'casino'

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Greece's parliament passed, unpopular, austerity measures, paving the way for a rescue package for the debt-laden debt.

For many markets, that was all investors needed to know. Shares rose as appetite for riskier assets increased, and the

dollar

, that indicator of investor nerves, lost 0.5% against a basket of currencies.

That was an extra boost to the prices of dollar-denominated commodities, which become more competitive as exports when the greenback falls.

New York

crude

was 2% higher in late deals, after topping $95 a barrel at one point, while

copper

soared 3% to its highest in nearly two months.

Short covering

But, as so often, the mood among farm commodities was more nuanced.

They performed pretty much as expected in earlier deals, rising as investors closed positions ahead of US Department of Agriculture data on Thursday on inventories and sowings viewed as some of the most important statistics of the year.

"Those who don't want to stick around for those reports are exiting," said Darrell Holaday at Country Futures.

And, given the level of short bets going on of late, that in theory meant higher prices, as investors bought back grain to cover short positions.

'Giant casino'

However, Chicago showed that it had not lost its knack for surprises, with

wheat

pulling back from intraday gains of nearly 4% at one point to post losses approaching 2%.

The reversal baffled many investors, although speculators, always active in Chicago wheat, took much of the flack.

"Hedge funds are shooting each other in the foot. It's a giant casino," Jerry Gidel at North America Risk Management Services said.

Jason Roose at US Commodities attributed the reversal to "non-threatening weather", with conditions certainly better in many parts, such as Europe.

That said, Benson Quinn Commodities noted that "the trade is closely watching dry conditions in the lower Volga basin, which have the potential to reduce some of the later production in this region".

The broker added: "Russian and Ukrainian production areas to the west of the region appear to have adequate to excessive moisture."

Cash vs futures

Indeed, many wheat markets traded a far more bullish view, with Minneapolis spring wheat for July closing up 4.4% at $8.76 a bushel, and the new crop September lot adding 2.0% to $8.49 ½ a bushel.

In Europe, Paris wheat for November closed up 2.4% at E199.75 cents a pound, while London's November lot gained 2.6% to £168.50 a tonne.

As Jaime Nolan at FCStone's Dublin office noted, European cash wheat markets showed "little inclination to follow the sharp declines seen" on futures until the last couple of sessions, "with 11% milling wheat at the Barcelona exchange holding at €240.00 a tonne".

Chicago's July wheat contract pulled itself up by the close to end up 0.2% at $6.41 ¼ a bushel, with the better-traded September lot adding 0.4% t0 $6.74 ¼ a bushel.

'Lack of rain a disaster'

Still, that was nothing compared with

corn

, which did a better job of keeping in positive territory – and not just because of its tighter fundamentals.

Matthew Pierce at PitGuru highlighted "growing talk of a Chinese and Mexican announcement in the immediate future" on corn purchases, evens which would mean "corn is priced $1.00 a bushel too cheap at this point".

Mexico's corn, after all, having been hit by frost earlier in the year is now being challenged by quite the opposite, with forecasts of for Sina Loha of "temperatures 'moderating' in the upper teens - and by that I mean 113-119 degrees Fahrenheit", Mr Pierce said.

"The lack of rain is now a disaster for their replanted crop. This brought rampant discussion concerning an imminent tender by Mexico for old-crop corn."

US Commodities noted that "China is believed to have been an active buyer of corn on this break. Cash corn in China remains near the highs".

Chicago corn for July closed up 2.2% at $6.98 a bushel – a full $0.56 ¾ a bushel premium to wheat.

Bulls eye

The new crop December corn lot closed down 0.4% to $6.50 ½ a bushel, despite some colourful talk about the, deteriorated, condition in the field.

"If you put a bull's eye in the Corn Belt and draw a circle to the outer edges, most of the corn inside that circle is in good to excellent condition and getting better," Mr Holaday said.

"The fringes have a lot of questions - too wet in North Dakota and South Dakota, too dry in the south west, very hot and dry to the south, and late planted corn in the east.

"Many years the fringes don't matter, but they do this year."

Soybeans

, meanwhile, maintained an upward plod, adding 0.3% to$13.34 ¼ a bushel for July, helped by talk of bullish sowings data on Thursday.

'Attention from chartists'

Among soft commodities, New York

cotton

ended lower, down 0.5% at 121.40 cents a pound for December, following another poor performance by the fibre on the Zhengzhou exchange, where the July lot slid a further 3% on the reduction in some import duties.

And

sugar

found headway harder to come by so close to the psychologically important 30 cents a pound mark for July. The lot ended unchanged at 29.28 cents a pound, with the better-traded October lot slipping 0.3% to 26.76 cents a pound.

However,

cocoa

for September added 2.1% to £1,959 a tonne in London, and 3.2% to $3,119 a tonne in New York, the best closes since early May in both cases.

The rise was helped by the New York lot breaking upwards through its 200-day moving average line, besides the talk that the quality of beans in the Ivory Coast, the top producer, may fall short of initial expectations.

"Cocoa is receiving attention from chartists," Jurgens Bauer at PitGuru said.

By Agrimoney.com

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