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Morning markets: China inflation data cuts pressure on crops

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Have investors been too downbeat about today's key US crop report?

It's easy to see why they have been cautious ahead of the latest US Department of Agriculture Wasde briefing.

The trend ahead of Wasdes of late has been to lift prices into the reports, only for futures to fall back after the briefing when its findings don't quite live up (or down) to, or at best match, expectations.

But have they been too downbeat in allowing Chicago


, for instance, to close lower every day this week, shedding 6% in the process?

'Sold off sharply'

The issue for wheat is the huge world stocks at the end of 2011-12, which the Wasde will issue a reminder of

"The major driver pushing prices lower is the near-record world supply of wheat," Luke Mathews at Commonwealth Bank of Australia said.

"The USDA is expected to reconfirm this bearish influence in the Wasde."

At Market 1, Mike Mawdsley said: "The numbers should be bearish. Wheat futures have sold off sharply this week in anticipation."

'Demand is out there'

However, Mr Mawdsley also noted that "we have seen a rush of tenders for wheat on the big break this week. Demand is out there."

After all, the US on Thursday won another order from Egypt, the top importer, at tender, and highlighted the competitiveness of its wheat in the process.

And weekly US export sales data on Thursday came in at 580,000 tonnes for wheat, above market expectations of, at best, 500,000 tonnes.

Investors certainly took a more upbeat view of wheat prices in early deals on Friday, sending the May lot 0.8% higher to $6.39 ½ a bushel as of 08:40 GMT.

Inflation boost

Not that this rise was all wheat's own work.

The grain got a pull from


, which added 0.8% to $6.40 ½ a bushel for May, maintaining its rediscovered premium for wheat, amid ideas for Chinese imports stoked by inflation data.

Official data on Friday showed China's inflation rate tumbling to 3.2% last month from 4.5% in January, a fall seen as giving the country elbow room for easing monetary policy to support its (relatively) flagging economy.

And that could signal increased supply for raw materials, a thought which also helped London


prices revive on Friday. And share markets showed gains too, with Tokyo stocks adding 1.7% and Shanghai ones 0.8%.

Overstated crop?

China's need for corn imports is an especially hot topic, with officials denying that purchases are needed, but investors sceptical.

Lynette Tan, at Singapore-based Phillip Futures, noted ideas that "Beijing and the US Department of Agriculture may have overstated China's corn crop by as much as 14%, pointing to future higher imports from the world's second-largest consumer of the grain that could squeeze already tightening global supplies".

With China the top buyer of


too, the oilseed as well got a lift from the Chinese inflation data, adding 1.0% to $13.51 ¾ a bushel for May delivery.

The contract hit $13.55 ½ a bushel earlier, its highest since September.

Trade data

China is a confirmed importer of the oilseed, with purchases from the US proving particularly strong of late thanks to disappointing crops in Argentina and Brazil, following drought.

Only on Thursday, China, whose imports are seen hitting 59m tonnes in 2012-13, purchased a further 165,000 tonnes.

And this not included within the huge figure of 1.65m tonnes of US soybeans sold in latest weekly export sales data.

The soy products continued their upward March too,


adding 0.5% to $369.20 a short ton, and early hitting $370.50 a short ton, its own highest-since-September – and marking a rebound of more than 28% in the last three months.

Highest since June



soared 1.6% to 54.26 cents a pound for May delivery, also helped by a 1.5% gain to 3,353 ringgit a tonne in benchmark May Kuala Lumpur

palm oil


Earlier the contract hit a nine-month high of 3,368 ringgit a tonne.

Leading analysts had, in a conference earlier this week, already raised the prospect of squeeze on the market thanks to firm demand at a time of disappointing South American soy output. (Argentina is the top export of both soyoil and soymeal.)

And hopes of economic stimulation in China, also the top soyoil and soymeal importer, and a major palm oil buyer, have hardly damaged that assessment.

India export concession



, of which China is also the top buyer, got a lift, despite India's decision to backtrack a little on its export ban.

India, the second ranked exporter, said it would allow merchants to ship cotton that had been cleared by customers before March 4, a day before the curbs were imposed.

And there was talk of some 2m-3m 170kg bales being earmarked for export but not shipped, although whether they had cleared customs…

The concession came ahead of a ministerial meeting to discuss the ban, imposed by the commerce minister, and opposed by the agriculture minister.

New York cotton for May added 0.7% to 90.14 cents a pound.


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