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Evening markets: yield hopes send corn, wheat prices diving

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Just how high will the winter


yield in Kansas, the biggest US wheat producing state, go this year?

"There is talk of 50 bushels an acre everywhere," Jerry Gidel at Rice Dairy said, up from 35 bushels an acre in drought-affected 2011, on US Department of Agriculture estimates.

The ideas are being spurred by the crop tour of Kansas by the Wheat Quality Council which on its first day came up with a figure of 53.6 bushels per acre – a record - compared with 40.0 bushels per acre on day one last year.

One yield was as high as 120 bushels an acre, with the low at 21 bushels an acre.

'Extremely big crop'

While the second day is not believed to have gone so well, to judge by market talk, which mentions initial ideas of averages more in the high 30s bushels per acre, a decrease had been expected, and it was not enough to prevent investors getting shot of wheat, wholesale.

"The Wheat Quality Tour is finding an extremely big crop in their observations in Kansas. We are not surprised, but we are surprised that the market is surprised," Darrell Holaday at Country Futures said.

"We feel the Kansas crop could easily go over 400m bushels."

That compares with 276.5m bushels last year, 360.0m bushels in 2010 and 369.6m bushels in 2009, on USDA numbers.

Rain makes grain

The idea of a US winter wheat crop in good health has also been spurred by USDA data showing 64% of the crop in "good" or "excellent" condition, besides the current rains which are seen coming at just the right time to help grainfill.

US Commodities said: "The trade for now is viewing the rain as mostly beneficial" for grains, after the strong pace of corn planting as of Sunday eased concerns that, in slowing seedings this week, might be a mixed blessing.

FCStone added, that "there is more rain coming next week".

Add in seasonal factors – crop prices often weaken in the run up to harvest as silos are emptied for the next filling – and technical setbacks – Chicago's benchmark July contract dropped convincingly through 10 and 20-day moving averages – and the result was carnage.

Prices tumble

Chicago July wheat fell 4.4% to $6.14 ½ a bushel in Chicago, the contract's lowest finish since January.

Kansas hard red winter wheat for July fell 4.0% to $6.30 ½ a bushel, its lowest close since July 2010.

Paris wheat for May was exceptional in rising 0.6% to E217.75 a tonne, helped by weakness in the euro after a soft US employment report sent investors running back to the safe haven of the


, so making dollar-denominated commodities less competitive as exports.

London wheat for May fell 1.3% to £174.25 a tonne.

'Basis remains on fire'

Wheat was not helped by, nor indeed helped, its fellow grain corn, which had its own issues to deal with, as analysts edge up yield hopes for this year's crop, based on the rapid pace of sowings.

OK the news was not all price-negative.

US Commodities noted: "Corn basis remains on fire. Corn basis levels in the western Corn Belt have now approached $0.40-a-bushel over the Chicago July contract - wow. The eastern Corn Belt saw these numbers weeks ago."

Furthermore, the USDA unveiled the sale of 130,000 tonnes of new crop US corn to "unknown", presumed to be China.

'Brazilian crop has become huge'

But joy at a strong rebound in US corn ethanol production last week, by 29,000 barrels a day to 865,000 barrels a day, according to official data was offset by a jump in inventories too, of 70,000 barrels to 22.2m, barrels, questioning demand for the biofuel.

And, besides the fast pace of sowings, the prospect of a large and early wheat crop is negative for corn too, in giving users an alternative source of supply of grains, just in the time when corn stocks will be running at their lowest.

What's more, "somewhat quietly, the Brazilian corn crop has become huge with estimates now up at 65m tonnes", Mr Holaday noted.

"They are making offerings in the world."

Chicago corn for May fell 2.7% to $6.42 ¼ a bushel, with the July down 2.8% at $6.121 ½ a bushel.

Upgrade ignored



crumbled eventually, despite strength for much of the day as investors clung to yet another export order, of 204,000 tonnes of new crop soybeans, to "unknown" but presumed China.

China's purchases of 2012-13 soybeans were already at a record, above 8m tonnes, "which indicates their concern about South American supplies", Paul Georgy at Allendale said.

Societe Generale did its best to help bulls by lifting its soybean price forecasts, by $12.75 a bushel to $15,209 a bushel for the average level in the current quarter


"Given the precariously tight soybean inventories, we expect the recent [upward] price action to continue until more clarity is gained on the state of the US crop," SocGen's Christopher Narayanan said.

"If US production disappoints and/or demand gains even more strength, we could very well stay at current levels (or higher) longer than the current quarter."

Still, the sight of tumbles in the grains was too much for investors in


, given the huge net long position that speculators hold in the oilseed in Chicago, making the oilseed vulnerable to a sharp slump in values if liquidation takes hold.

The best-traded July contract fell 1.2% to $14.85 a bushel.

'What's the story?'

There was some blood on the carpet in New York too, notably raw


, which tumbled 12.9% to 20.55 cents a pound, its lowest for nearly a year, and within an ace of setting its lowest since September 2010.

"It can't be fun for the longs out there. We seem to be sliding lower with no real fight and little in the way of encouragement for the bulls," Thomas Kujawa at Sucden Financial said.

There may be hope for prices in that they last year bounced of 20.40 cents a pound, revived by poor weather in Brazil and port congestion.

"What's the story this year?" Mr Kujawa asked.

'Little justification'

New York


, which had earlier received a boost from external markets, fell back with risk assets in general.

The July lot shed 0.2% to 89.51 cents a pound.



managed a 1.0% gain to $2,342 a tonne in New York, for July delivery, amid a further round of covering of speculators' hefty short positions.

"There is little justification from the fundamental point of view" for a price recovery, Commerzbank said.

"Rainfall across most of the cocoa-growing regions of Ivory Coast has improved prospects for the currently ongoing interim harvest between April and September."


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