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Morning markets: Turnaround Tuesday relieves strain on crops

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Tuesdays by lore in Chicago crop futures often stage a reverse of a strong trend the session before.

And this Tuesday started off in such a manner.

The worst of the storm in financial markets, caused by concerns over China's economy and Spanish debt, appeared to have passed for now.

Shares

closed lower in Asia, but not desperately so, closing down 0.1% in Tokyo, 0.4% in Seoul and 0.8% in Sydney.

And while Brent

crude

maintained its downward path, shedding 0.6% to a little over $118 a barrel as of 08:50 UK time (02:50 Chicago time) on the implications of the early reversal in the flow of a US pipeline, commodity markets overall were more stable. Copper was 0.1% lower in London.

'Bearish frenzy'

OK, the improvement in sentiment was not strong enough to drag all crops out of the mire.

Corn

for May was 0.1% lower at $6.22 ¾ a bushel - and this despite (delayed) weekly US export data, as measured by cargo inspections, out overnight coming in ahead of forecasts, at 42.9m bushels.

This was an increase from the 26.6m bushels the week before, and despite the disruption of Easter.

But the prospect of strong US corn sowings, favoured by the benign weather so far, kept a lid on sentiment.

"The spring weather pattern along with field work along with planting progress running a good one to two weeks ahead of schedule in the main core of the Corn Belt has the trade feeding on a bearish frenzy at the present time," Jon Michalscheck said.

"Once we get the crop in the ground maybe the market will be willing to build back more of a risk premium."

'Positive crush margins'

Actually, new crop December corn did do better, adding 0.1% to $5.26 ¾ a bushel.

But that was not enough to keep up with new crop November

soybeans

, which gained 0.5% to $13.57 a bushel, as the oilseed resumed its place at the top of the Chicago pile.

The oilseed gained some support from a firm performance overnight on the Dalian exchange in China, the top importing country, where the benchmark September lot added 0.2% to 4,565 yuan a tonne despite Chicago's weak performance in the last session.

Indeed, it issued a reminder of the return by Chinese soybean crushers to positive margins, of more than 300 yuan a tonne according to Morgan Stanley, the highest since 2010, and up from a negative 500 yuan a tonne late last year.

"Positive crush margins in China are constructive for US soybeans," the bank said in a report on Monday.

'Substantial downside risk'

Soybeans' success also fed on itself, after the May contract closed the last session below its 10-day moving average for only the third time since the end of January.

This had provoked some fear of technical signs provoking a market retreat.

"If funds get at the market for a third straight session and violate the 20-day moving averages in the front month contracts, substantial downside risk could be in the offing, with chart support not seen till the 50-day moving averages well under the market," Benson Quinn said.

In fact, the May lot added 0.4% to $14.25 ½ a bushel, if still standing just below its 10-day moving average, at just above $14.27 a bushel.

Weather setbacks

This time

wheat

, which has surrendered all its main moving averages, managed nearly to keep up, adding 0.3% to $6.18 ¼ a bushel for May, helped by solid US weekly exports, at 25.7m bushels, and in part by ideas of weather damage.

Frost returned to the market radar, with reports of a freeze in parts of Kansas at the start of the week, albeit not a severe one, while the winds that ripped through parts of the Plains at the weekend, causing a power outage at a CF Industries fertilizer plant, were seen as flatting some crop.

Kansas hard red winter wheat for May added 0.4% to $6.33 a bushel.

Tellingly, Minneapolis spring wheat, still being sown and so for which these weather setbacks were not such an issue, eased 0.3% for May to $8.13 a bushel.

'Caught off guard'

In New York, raw

sugar

managed some rebound too, if of only 0.01 cents to 22.91 cents a pound for May, from its four-month closing low (for a spot contract) in the last session.

The sweetener was sunk in the last session by a huge delivery against London's expired May white sugar contract.

But an even bigger test of market sentiment was in New York

cotton

, which closed the last session down the daily limit for the May futures contract, sunk as it turned out by feed through from the options market.

"Option locals and other cotton traders were really caught off guard when they discovered a - likely a commercial – customer (or customers) was exercising 794 May puts, at 92 [cents a pound], that expired worthless, 8 points out of money, when May futures settled 92.08 at options expiry Friday," Mike Stevens, the veteran cotton analyst, said.

The "obvious absence of the panic short covering" in the May lot, which will begin the expiry process next week, and rains in major cotton producing areas "grains all contributed to cotton prices having the rug pull out from under" in the last session.

The May lot fell a further 0.2% to 87.88 cents a pound, but later contracts were higher. The July lot added 0.8% to 87.95 cents a pound to gain a clear premium.

By Agrimoney.com

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