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Morning markets: brighter talk slows slide in crop prices

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So how much downward pressure was there left in

corn

?

Chicago's July contract closed the last session down the maximum daily limit, implying some selling went unfulfilled. And it indeed extended its losses on Thursday, as might be expected.

But the fall was not huge, with the contract standing 0.6% lower at $6.73 ¼ a bushel as of 07:30 GMT (08:30 UK time).

And the new crop December lot, which was less weak in the last session, actually rose, adding 0.3% to $6.28 a bushel.

Chart pointers

Various factors appeared to be at work. Some were technical, with the December lot's chart still holding some strong cards, such as a support level at $6.25 a bushel put in by a spring high, Mike Mawdsley at Market 1 said.

"A close over the downtrend, near $6.64 a bushel, would be bullish now," he added. But one step at a time.

Others were external. The latest commodities market downswing, which saw

silver

tumble 10%, had not expired early on Thursday.

Copper

shed a further 0.9%, with this market appearing especially concerned about China's economic prospects.

And it made itself felt on stock markets too, with Tokyo's Nikkei index shedding 1.5% and Shanghai stocks down 1.1%.

'Significant premium'

But the declines in commodity prices were certainly more patchy.

Oil

dipped in and out of positive territory.

And, among crops, many analysts were taking a less apocalyptic view of Wednesday's slew of US Department of Agriculture data, including the first full estimates for crops in 2011-12, than some investors did immediately after the report.

"Despite the initial bearish response by the market, the key message is that inventories for many key agricultural commodities are extremely tight, leaving little room for production losses over the next year," Luke Mathews at Commonwealth Bank of Australia said.

"Prices should retain a significant weather premium until production prospects are assured. This won't be until mid-third quarter."

'Somewhat bullish'

Indeed, there was some positively upbeat talk around about new crop

soybeans

, with Mr Mathews terming the USDA's estimate of a thin 160m bushels in stocks at the close of 2011-12 "somewhat bullish".

Australia & New Zealand Bank analysts said: "The broader story [for soybeans] was the USDA pencilling in China soybean imports rising by 2.5mt in 2011-12, and drawing down global stocks again."

Corn's supporters included Abah Ofon, at Standard Chartered who said that he still expected prices of the grain "to be pressured upwards longer term", questioning some of the USDA's demand assumptions.

For

wheat

, Kerr Chung Yang at Phillip Futures leant a hand, saying that "taking into account the dry weather over the past couple of weeks, there's a good chance the [USDA] new crop production and stocks figures will change".

Price reaction

Such comments were not enough to prevent further declines in crop prices. But they did help put the brakes on, limiting losses in new crop November soybeans to 0.2%, leading the lot at $13.18 a bushel.

The old crop July contract eased 0.1% to $13.30 a bushel.

In wheat, Minneapolis wheat for July edged 0.3% lower to $9.23 a bushel, although the winter wheats were less resolute.

Chicago wheat came under continued pressure from an especially upbeat view by the USDA of the harvest of the soft red winter variety, which it trades. The July lot which tumbled 5% in the last session, lost a further 0.8% to $7.53 a bushel.

Kansas hard red winter wheat shed 0.9% to $8.92 a bushel, with a problem here being the fall through technical support levels, of nine-day and 50-day moving averages, situated at around $8.94 a bushel, and below which automatic sell orders are likely to have been placed.

'Particularly bullish'

If there was a surprise, it was the continued fall in

cotton

despite a USDA report which highlighted the dangers to sowings in America, the top exporter, from extreme conditions in southern states.

"The report for cotton was particularly bullish," ANZ said.

"Given dry conditions in the US, the USDA is now projecting essentially no growth in US harvested cotton acreage on last year.

"Also with a lower yield year on year, US 2011-12 cotton production will now struggle to reach last year's level."

Nonetheless, New York cotton for July shed 1.6% to 148.04 cents a pound, with the new crop December lot down 1.4% at 123.45 cents a pound, encouraged by weaker prices too on the Zhengzhou exchange in China, the top importer and consumer of the fibre.

There, September cotton was 4.3% lower at 24,315 yuan a tonne.

Data later

As for what happens later on, traders have another set of numbers to swallow, in weekly US exports sales data.

Better things are expected this time "with the trade estimating that they should bounce back slightly from last week's dismal numbers", Jon Michalscheck at Benson Quinn Commodities said.

For soybeans, this means a trip back to six digits, with at least 100,000 tonnes, and potentially 300,000 tonnes, in sales expected this time.

For corn a near-doubling of last week's 284,000 tonnes might be on the cards, traders believe.

Wheat sales are forecast in line with last week's 550,000 tonnes.

By Agrimoney.com

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