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Evening markets: wheat takes the plaudits

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Wheat replaced soybeans among investors' affections on Wednesday, helped by forecasts of tricky US planting weather and a rare citation by the International Monetary Fund.

Soybeans were faring OK at 17:00 GMT, with Chicago's May contract standing 2.5 cents higher at $10.40 a bushel, helped by continued strong demand from China.

"China's bean imports for the first three months of the year were up 44% from the US and 128% from Brazil but down 34% from Argentina, reflecting the shift by China away from Argentine beans to the US and Brazil," Vic Lespinasse at said.

But enthusiasm was curbed by a warning from Oil World, the influential analysis group, of a "high probability" of price falls in the offing.

'Relatively buoyant'

Wheat, however, showed more enthusiastic gains, up 5.75 cents at $5.15 ¼ a bushel in Chicago, with gains across the Atlantic too. London May wheat closed up £0.95 at £108.75 a tonne, with the Paris contract E2.50 higher at E143.50 a tonne.

The price was helped by talk of the flood of Ukraine exports beginning to catch up in price with Western shipments, while US weather forecasts suggested dry weather for parched winter wheat districts, and rain in sodden Plains areas waiting to be planted with spring wheat.

Furthermore, wheat was singled out by the IMF as likely to "remain relatively buoyant" through the global economic downturn, albeit relative to a commodity sector set to remain "subdued".

Corn, indeed, had "subdued" written all over it, down 1.5 cents at $3.72 ½ a bushel, with warm and dry weather expected to speed plantings.

Cocoa's hard grind

Some soft commodities were sticking to the IMF script too, with London cocoa for July shedding £6 to £1,739 a tonne and its New York equivalent off $39 at $2,390 a tonne as traders continued to mull weak data on first quarter cocoa grinds.

Nonetheless, Barry Callebaut, the cocoa trading giant, offered some hope on technical grounds, saying that London prices "seem to have found support around the £1,650-1,700 level and did not break through the support levels set two months ago".

New York orange juice slipped 1.25 cents a pound to close below 80 cents a pound for the first time in two weeks.

However, coffee managed gains, with July robustas adding $20 to $1,500 in London.

New York sugar added 0.13 cents to 13.19 cents a pound.

Earlier, palm oil closed up 1.6% at 2,475 ringgit a tonne in Malaysia, its highest close for a week.

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