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Morning markets: G20 action stems selling in crop futures

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Commodities had a big thing going for them on Friday, which enabled many of them to pop their head back above water.

That support was a weaker


, which lost 0.4% against a basket of currencies as of 07:45 GMT (08:45 UK time), so making dollar-denominated assets, including many raw materials, more appealing as exports.

Indeed, such was highlighted by Luke Mathews at Commonwealth Bank of Australia, who pointed out that during the last week, while, say, Chicago wheat is down 9% and New York sugar down 13% "the dollar index has surged nearly 3%".

Longer term, since 2006, the inverse correlation between the dollar and agricultural commodity prices, in dollar terms, has been 75%. (Ie a correlation of -75%.)

Some recovery

The dollar's pullback, after on Thursday hitting its highest level since February, was attributed to a statement from the G20 group of leading nations to act to put the brakes on the world market mayhem, and the eurozone debt crisis.



managed some early gains, with Brent crude adding 0.4% to get back near $106 a barrel, with firmer European share markets helping too.

And, in Chicago, crops managed a cautious rebound from early weakness which took


to a fresh two-month low, of $6.45 ¼ a bushel, and


to a 10-month low of $12.50 a bushel.

'Temporary selling frenzy'

Indeed, there is a feeling abroad in markets that grains are priced too cheaply, on fundamental and technical bases.

At Benson Quinn Commodities, Jon Michalscheck noted that the nine-day relative strength index, a measure of market momentum, had fallen near the mid-20s level in corn, soybeans and wheat, indicating oversold conditions.

This "may help with some short-covering in the not too distant future", he said.

As for supply and demand, Lynette Tan at Phillip Futures in Singapore said: "We expect bullish fundamentals will eventually lead to buying after the temporary selling frenzy is over and the grains market return to fundamentals."

'China continues to buy soybeans'

Certainly many end-users are using the price break to stock up, with Egypt buying wheat on Thursday, and South Korea's biggest feedmaker, Nonghyup Feed, buying a further 55,000 tonnes of US corn overnight.

The Taiwan Flour Millers' Association on Friday issued a tender for 52,920 tonnes of US wheat.

And there is talk of huge Chinese purchases of soybeans, albeit not necessarily of American ones.

"Regardless of the current Chinese economic concerns, they continue to buy soybeans," Brian Henry at Benson Quinn Commodities said.

"Estimates on Chinese purchases of soybeans, from South America, over the course of the last two days, range from 1m-1.25m tonnes", on top of the 180,000 tonnes announced by the US Department of Agriculture on Wednesday.

Indeed, the weak Brazilian currency is allowing the country's merchants "to offer soybeans aggressively".

Dry South America

There is also mounting talk over the dryness in South America at the start of the corn sowing season, which may at least force farmers to swap to later-planted (and less profitable) soybeans, and perhaps cause an even bigger setback.

"We remain wary that South America needs rain to allow favourable soybean planting conditions," CBA's Mr Mathews said.

Concerns, spurred by growing expectations of a return of the La Nina weather pattern, currently centre on Cordoba and Santa Fe in Argentina - where the farm ministry, citing lack of moisture, late on Thursday revealed an estimate of wheat production of 11m-13m tonnes in 2011-12, below the USDA figure of 14.7m tonnes.

As for corn sowings, they have reached 7.7% of the 3.5m hectares expected to be seeded, down 5.8 points on progress at this time last year.

Prices mixed

Factored into market prices, that allowed Chicago wheat for December to recover 0.6% to $6.37 ½ a bushel, although prices were hardly stable.

Corn for December dipped in and out of positive territory, easing 0.3% to $6.48 a bushel as of 07:45 GMT.

And soybeans were down 1.3% at $12.67 a bushel.

'Caught in the downdraft'

Elsewhere, the nerves got to

palm oil

too, which returned below 3,000 ringgit a tonne in Kuala Lumpur, standing down 1.3% at 2,969 ringgit a tonne for December delivery.



fell 1.3% to 338.00 yen a kilogramme for the benchmark February lot.

And, in New York,


eased 0.2% to 99.05 cents a pound for December.

The fibre has been "caught in the downdraft created by the big losses in global equities, with investors liquidating anything that remotely resembles risk", Mr Mathews said.


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