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Morning markets: China factory data keep lid on ag markets

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Thursday posed a question for agricultural commodities.

For it brought with it December, and starts of new months are often viewed by traders as times that fresh money pours into crop markets. Will it happen this time?

"Thursday is a new month with new money which could be an interesting day," Jon Michalscheck at Benson Quinn Commodities said.

"It should give us some insight as to whether the last three sessions were in fact just position squaring for the end of the month as well as December option expiration," this week so far being positive for crops.

It may signal whether funds have any "intention of beginning to once again build a sizeable long position at this time".

Dow jumps

The early signs were broadly positive, with Chicago grains showing a positive, if hardly ecstatic, start to the month.

But then, it was difficult for crops not to make headway when other risk assets were soaring.

Overnight, New York's Dow Jones Industrial Average


index closed up 4.2% to post a gain for October which had seemed more than improbable even 24 hours ago.

Heading into Thursday, Asian stockmarkets posted respectable gains too, as they got their chance to react to both concerted action both by the big Western central banks and monetary easing in China, besides some upbeat US data as well.

Tokyo shares added 1.9%, Seoul stocks 3.7% and Sydney shares 2.6%. Shanghai


jumped 5.6%.

China setback

Helpful for


-denominated commodities, the greenback maintained its downward path too, if by a modest 0.1%, making them more competitive as exports.

However, it wasn't all good news, with two manufacturing surveys showing China's factory sector contracting, and by more than economist had expected. The HSBC survey came in with a reading of 47.7, a 32-month low and below the 48.0 preliminary reading it came out with earlier.

"The contracting [industrial survey] figure from China today and credit downgrades of US banks may play up after rally news wane in investors' minds," Lynette Tan at Phillip Futures warned.

"We expect that the rally across the commodities complex may be short-lived unless more supportive news continues to buoy the markets."

'It's been an effort'



was certainly hardly enthusiastic, standing unchanged at $6.08 a bushel for March as of 08:20 GMT, still failing to find cheer in Wednesday's strong US ethanol data, and zero deliveries against the expiring December contract.



were hardly stellar, gaining 0.5% to $11.37 ¼ a bushel for January.

"It's been an effort to try to get a rally out of the soybean market," Mike Mawdsley at Market 1 said, adding that moving average lines on the charts "are resistance should we find buyers".

South American weather currently deemed benign has hardly been a help, when many bulls are banking on La Nina-inspired drought kicking in this month.

Short-covering rally



were relatively muted, adding just a further 0.6% to $3.22 a bushel after rallying more than 11% in the previous three sessions.

The spike "shows you what can happen when shorts want to get out at the same time", Mr Mawdsley said.

And short covering may have been a factor in


showing a better pair of heels, gaining 0.9% to $6.19 ¼ a bushel for March and 2.0% to $6.07 ½ a bushel for the expiring December contract, regaining close to its death a premium over corn.

Speculators' net short positions in wheat had reached a record high as of Tuesday last week, regulatory data showed, setting up huge potential for a short-covering rally, and looking like tempting many to err on the side of caution and take profits.

Ukraine improvement

Furthermore, there has been some positive fundamental news on wheat too.

Sure, it has not all been positive, with fears for drought-hit winter wheat crops waning in the US, where rain is meant to be on its way for the southern Plains, and Ukraine, where the agriculture ministry "seems to be a bit more confident in the crop's potential for passing through winter", Agritel's Kiev office said.

There are still likely to be hefty spring reseedings but, at 18% of winter crop area, that is lower than the previous estimate of 28%.

But "weather conditions in the country at the beginning of winter will be decisive", Agritel added, saying the situation was still "critical for wheat and barley".

And concerns over Australia's harvest rains keep rising. "Reports of wheat being downgraded… across New South Wales are becoming more common," Luke Mathews at Commonwealth Bank of Australia said.

Data later

Meanwhile, there are signs of demand too, with Tunisia buying 75,000 tonnes of durum wheat on Wednesday, probably from southern Europe, and Saudi Arabia opening a tender for a massive 330,000 tonnes of wheat.

More will be known of the state of US exports, at least, with weekly sales data later, expected to show a wheat figure of 350,000-550,000 tonnes, below the 614,000 tonnes last time.

For corn, export sales of 350,000-450,000 tonnes are expected, compared with 350,000 tonnes a week before, with the soybean figure pegged at 550,000-850,000 tonnes, allowing a little room for a pullback from the previous week's bumper 922,000 tonnes.


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