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Morning markets: commodity markets slip as funds desert them

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Agricultural commodities got off to another soft start.

Credit Agricole summed up the atmosphere in financial markets as "one of rising risk aversion, with commodities facing the brunt of pressure".

This was evident in falls in share prices of many Sydney-listed miners, such as BHP Billiton, as well as agricultural resources stocks such as fertilizer group Incitec Pivot, which dropped nearly 4%, following on from 3% losses in the likes of North American peers such as Agrium, Mosaic and PotashCorp on Tuesday.

And it was shown in commodity markets themselves, where

crude

dipped again, to two-week lows, and

copper

eased in Shanghai.

"Last week there was talk that a few of the larger hedge funds were going to exit their commodity positions including grain and take their money elsewhere to play and maybe that is exactly what is taking place as we begin the new trading month," Jon Michalscheck at Benson Quinn Commodities said.

'Not helping sentiment'

Back in China, prices of financial assets looked distinctly off the boil, with Shanghai shares down 2.3%, on track for their lowest close since February, and many, if not all, agricultural commodity futures on the slide too.

Cotton

(of which China is the top producer, consumer and importer) for September slid 2% on the Zhengzhou exchange.

And that provided a negative backdrop for New York cotton, which resumed its downward movement, shedding 2.3% to 153.86 cents a pound for July delivery, as of 07:20 GMT, after a bounce in the last session attributed to dry weather in Texas and flooding in parts of the Mississippi basin, major US growing areas.

Similarly,

soybeans

, of which China is also the top importer, dropped 1% for September, a negative sign for futures in Chicago, where the oilseed dropped 0.5% to $13.57 ½ a bushel for July delivery.

"Weak demand from China is also not helping sentiment," Australia & New Zealand Bank said, adding that soybean prices were also feeling the pressure from the prospect of US sowings increasing as farmers prevented by rain from planting corn switch instead to the oilseed, which can be later seeded.

Mike Mawdsley at Market 1 said: "It does appear likely there will be less corn and more soybean acres."

'Done by this weekend'

Not that

corn

itself escaped a sell-off either, even the new crop December lot, which proved resilient in the last session, but shed 0.5% to $6.58 ¾ a bushel this time on the improved, if not ideal, sowing conditions.

"We know locally the planters have been rolling big time and some will be done by this weekend," Mr Mawdsley, based in Iowa, said.

The old-crop July contract lost 0.3% to $7.21 ½ a bushel, still feeling pressure from Tuesday's unexpected delivery by ADM against the expiring May contract, signalling, in the words of Commonwealth Bank of Australia's Luke Mathews, "that nearby futures prices are currently too high".

Tour results

And with its fellow grain continuing to struggle,

wheat

eased too, down 0.7% at $7.87 ½ a bushel in Chicago for July delivery, with early results from a US crop tour a depressant to prices too.

Initial chatter from the Wheat Quality Council's ride around wheat in Kansas, the top wheat-growing state, showed improved yields from last season and good soil moisture levels, although this was from areas not affected by the well-publicised drought.

A tour of some of these farms is on the agenda for Wednesday.

Kansas-traded hard red winter wheat for July lost 1.0% to $8.89 a bushel.

'Situation is worsening'

Not, of course, that America's weather woes are the only market movers. ANZ noted that Western Australia, usually Australia's top grain-growing state, "remains dry" as the planting window opens.

"Further rainfall remains critical for planting. For the next week the Western Australia wheat belt will be heavily influenced by several high pressure systems, resulting in no forecast rainfall through to at least next Wednesday," the bank said.

"How extensive the forecast rain for France will be on the weekend" will also have a big influence for prices.

The signs aren't good: "In France, the situation is worsening and no rainfalls are forecast for the next [few] days," Paris-based consultancy Agritel said, noting that "crop development is 15-18 days early", a sign of stress rather than a reason for farmers to cheer.

Still, with commodities taking the brunt of investors' move from riskier assets, such factors were drowned out in early deals.

By Agrimoney.com

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