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Evening markets:sugar leads rally as crop futures outperform

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Wheat

futures recovered a bit of poise on Thursday, but

sugar

showed how to get back on your feet in style.

The catalyst for the sweetener's recovery from a pasting in the last session was data from shipping agency Williams Brasil showing that the line-up of ships waiting to loand up in ports in Brazil, the top exporter, had lengthened to 69, from 55 a week ago, touching a raw nerve.

Queues of well over 100 ships were, in squeezing supplies, a big contributor to sugar's recovery a year ago.

Last night's "bad" close meant "the bulls need to get the market back above 23 cents a pound sooner rather than later" to get the market, technically, on a more even keel, Thomas Kujawa at Sucden Financial said.

And a price of more than 24 cents a pound is needed to support the idea of a "trend reversal".

They achieved the first objective in one swoop, sending New York's July futures contract up 4.7% to 23.52 cents a pound, with forward contracts posting similar gains. Firm cash and ethanol markets helped too.

As did a weaker

dollar

, which lost ground as a well-received auction of Spanish government debt underpinned the euro. (A firmer dollar improves the export competitiveness of dollar-denominated assets.)

And this when many other assets were struggling, with London shares losing another 1%, and Wall Street stocks lower in late deals.

The Russia factor

Indeed, currency was a factor in higher grain futures too. (

Oil

struggled to help, with New York crude 0.3% higher at $100.57 a barrel in late deals, limited by talk that the Opec cartel will implement its first production rise in nearly four years.)

But so was a greater comfort with the idea of the Black Sea agricultural giants returning to grain exports, after curbs since last year's drought shrivelled crops.

Russian wheat prices are rising, SovEcon reported, reducing Russia's cost competitiveness on international markets. (More on this may become evident with the results of a Lebanese tender for wheat due for delivery days after Russia's export ban expires.)

And there is growing talk of measures such as tariffs to keep outflows, and domestic food price inflation, in check.

Raw nerve

Meanwhile, Ukraine, which has imposed duties, cut its forecast for grain shipments to 15m-18m tonnes from 19m-20m tonnes in what, eventually, looked like a move related to production nerves.

"Everything will depend on the volume of grain harvest. If the crop will be 2m-3m tonnes higher, we will export this additional volume," Mykola Prysyazhnyuk, Ukraine's agriculture minister, said.

And certainly, weather models show "eastern Europe into Belarus and the Ukraine staying warm and dry", said weather service WxRisk.com, touching another sensitive nerve following the 2010 drought.

The European outlook is looking less merciful to parched crops too, looking a "tiny bit" drier for next week but considerably so in the 11-to-15 day outlook which "has backed off the idea of a second cold front crashing into western Europe".

Persistent heat?

And this when weather remains a concern in the US too. Sure, it is getting drier in many places that need a break from rain to get planting sown up.

"But there is also concern about persistent heat," Benson Quinn Commodities said, adding that "this market will remain very nervous throughout the growing season".

Rival broker US Commodities said a "heat dome will be the next risk for the US after the crop is planted. That will be a big deal," if it occurs, interfering with, for example, corn pollination.

As a reminder of the damage poor weather has already caused, Informa Economics trimmed its forecast for the US winter wheat crop by 20m bushels to 1.42bn bushels, which would be the smallest in five years.

It also cut its estimate for European Union wheat output by 5.4m tonnes to 135.0m tonnes, and to below the US Department of Agriculture estimate of 138.6m tonnes.

'Needed the Black Sea'

Gleadell, the UK grain merchant, summed up the situation so: "With EU crop prospects wilting in the heat and with US winter and spring crop production far from a certainty, the increased Black sea supply may, in reality, only offset the potential losses in the EU and US.

"The world balance sheet needed the Black Sea, and this will soon be realised."

It was already, with Chicago wheat closing up 1.4% at $7.69 ¾ a bushel for July, while

corn

for the same month gained 1.1% to $7.66 ½ a bushel and soybeans 1.5% to $14.07 a bushel.

Soybeans

, ending over $14 a bushel for the first time in two months, got extra help from the problems besetting rival oilseed

rapeseed

in Europe and canola in Canada.

"If, in Canada, spring wheat and canola do not get planted by the end of the week, it will get tougher," US Commodities said.

Currency brake

Rapeseed itself ended 1.2% higher at E479.00 a tonne in Paris for August, regaining its winning ways after three successive days of decline.

The better-traded November lot gained 1.0% to E471.50 a tonne.

As for Paris wheat, it added 0.5% to E237.50 a tonne for November, held back by the stronger euro. London wheat for November did better, gaining 2.0% to £191.45 a tonne.

By Agrimoney.com

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