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Morning markets: ags dip as euro fears, downgrades resume

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Normal, risk-off, service resumed on financial market on Wednesday, stoked by the usual agent provocateurs – debt worries and rating agency downgrades.

Christian Noyer, an ECB governing council member, helped revive the debt fears by telling an audience in Singapore that "the situation in Europe and the world has significantly worsened over the past few weeks.

"Market stress has intensified. We are now looking at a true financial crisis - that is a broad-based disruption in financial markets."

More downgrading…

As to how the growing crisis might impact on the ground, Standard & Poor's gave a clue in downgrading ratings on a swathe of banks, including Bank of America, Barclays and Citigroup.

Rabobank, the prominent agricultural lender, was downgraded by two notches.

Separately, Moody's put junior bonds of 87 European banks on review for downgrade, reflecting an idea that prospects for government support are not as healthy as they were.

The reaction on financial markets was to send the


higher, up 0.4% against a basket of currencies as of 08:30 GMT, and you can guess the rest.


fell 0.5% in Seoul and Tokyo, and traded 3.3% lower in Shanghai in late deals, while Brent


dropped 0.7%.

Weather debate

Agricultural commodity markets set about reversing some of their gains of the previous two sessions too, notably, in Chicago, in




, which dropped more than 1%.

Soybeans fell 1.0% to $11.13 ¼ a bushel for January, sapped, besides by the general mood, by ideas that fears for South American dryness, a touchy subject in a La Nina period, may have been overdone.

"Most forecasters remain confident in Brazil's crop prospects this [southern hemisphere] summer," Luke Mathews, at Commonwealth Bank of Australia, said.

That said, "it is difficult to get a handle of exactly what is going on in the weather in South America, there are so many different ideas", Jerry Gidel at North America Risk Management Services noted.

Barn doors closed

For corn, Wednesday is a big day in bringing the start of the expiry process of the December contract, and the figure on how much (If anything) has been delivered against the lot so far.

In fact, traders expect zero deliveries, given the strong US cash market, amid a reluctance by growers to sell.

"The fact that most of the producers are cash happy at the present time is expected to keep selling somewhat limited going into the New Year," Jon Michalscheck at Benson Quinn Commodities said.

"Reports of large pre-pays of fertilizer, chemicals and feed for 2012 may also indicate that the next period of cash tightness may not surface until taxes are due in March."

Spread bet

Still, on futures markets, investors were not so shy, taking the March lot down 1.3% back below $6 a bushel, to $5.97 ¼ a bushel. The December lot itself shed 1.2% to $5.90 ¾ a bushel.

Benson Quinn noted that "the one story that seems to be gaining some traction is the abundance of moisture in eastern Australia as only half of that crop has been harvested".

Mr Mathews noted that "heavy rain in southern New South Wales last night, plus more rain forecast in central/northern New South Walestoday, will exacerbate the issue".

This is largely a quality issue. Still, it may be encouraging a "sell corn, buy wheat" trade which has become the vogue, for reasons which also look to have a lot to do with speculators being unwilling to pile on more shorts in wheat, given that they already have so many losing bets on the grain.

As Paul Deane at Australia & New Zealand Bank noted, regulatory data "showed speculative funds were record net short Chicago wheat [which] was looking oversold and prone to a bounce".

Bounce over, for now at least, wheat retreated 1.0% to $6.10 a bushel for March, and by 0.6% to $5.91 ¼ a bushel for December, regaining its premium over corn.

'Conflicting leads'

Elsewhere, Kuala Lumpur

palm oil

was also in retreat, with pressure added by data from Intertek, the cargo surveyor, showing that Malaysian exports of the vegetable oil slid 8.8% this month.

The February lot fell 1.3% to a two-week low of 3,022 ringgit a tonne, with some uncertainty too provided by a key sector conference in Bali which may throw up a few surprises.

In Tokyo,


for May eased 0.2% to 267.00 yen a kilogramme, as it balances what Ker Chung Yang at Phillip Futures termed "conflicting leads" from high inventories and thin demand, but when rains in Thailand, the top exporter, are limiting supplies too.

As an aside, production in states which are members of the Association of Natural Rubber Producing Countries, accounting for more than 90% of world trade, is expected to rise 3.6% to 10.4m tonnes in output next year, after a 5.6% increase in 2011.


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