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Morning markets: crop decline takes corn to contract high

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Agricultural commodities had two reasons to rise on Tuesday, and they took them, to lift Chicago soybeans to their highest for a month, and December corn to fresh contract high.

The first support was the rebound in external markets, with Tokyo's Nikkei


index closing up 1.2%, Seoul stocks adding 3.9% and Shanghai stocks up 1.3% in late deals, amid some reassuring Chinese manufacturing data, and growing expectations of a further round of quantitative easing to stimulate the US economy.

"Such would provide a boost of optimism for the stock market and fuel increases in commodities as well," Mark Welch at Texas A&M University said.


added 1.4% as of 07:40 GMT (08:40 UK time), returning back above $85 a barrel, while the


, an inverse indicator of investor jitters, eased a smidgen.

'Rains were a bust'

And crops had their own specific reason for rising anyway, with a disappointing set of weekly US crop condition data.

Some deterioration had been expected, given disappointing rains of late in many areas.

"Rains were a bust over the weekend in areas that need it the most. In my local area we have a about an inch total over the last five-to-six weeks," said Mike Mawdsley at broker Market 1, based in the top US producing state of Iowa.

The percentage of the US


crop, the world's biggest, rated "good" or "excellent" dropped by two points to 59%, at the bottom end of trade expectations, and below the 64% a year ago.

August, or October?

The proportion of


, of which the US is also the top producer, in good or excellent condition dropped three points to 57%, a bigger drop that had been forecast.

"Corn is dead on some of the sandiest ground and looks more like the middle of October than mid August," Mr Mawdsley said.

At Benson Quinn Commodities, Jon Michalscheck said: "All of the key states were seen declining as the plant continues to shut down, and a lack of precipitation in an estimated one-third of the crop appears to be speeding up the process."

Nor are weather conditions getting any better with a dry week ahead expected, and the potential for rain, when it does arrive, to come too late.

"Rain is needed, now," for soybeans too, Mr Mawdsley said.

Tour findings

And nor were the initial results from the ProFarmer US crop tour that much help in easing concerns over crop quality.

"[The] tour was expected to find one of the most varied crops ever, after persistent rain had delayed spring planting and excessive, crop-stressing heat this summer left crop development uneven," Lynette Tan at Phillip Futures said.

And it seems to be living up to expectations so far, with results from Ohio and South Dakota indicating highly mixed yields, generally below those of last year.

"Some early comments out of the Pro Farmer US crop tour were supportive of prices," Paul Deane at Australia & New Zealand Bank said.

Corn added 0.7% to $7.39 ½ a bushel for December, hitting a contract high of $7.40 a bushel earlier, while soybeans added 0.8% to $13.95 ¾ a bushel, getting a little extra help from factory data from China, the top importer of the oilseed.

Activity in the country's manufacturing sector has improved a little this month, from July, to a level consistent with overall economic growth of about 9%.

Signs of demand

Even so, it was


which returned to top of the table, adding 1.0% to $7.43 a bushel for September delivery.

The grain gained support from further deterioration in the health of the US crop, of which 62% was rated in good or excellent health, down four points on the week. A year ago, the figure was 82%.

Furthermore, prices reacted to continued signs of demand, with Egypt back in the market for wheat, (including US soft white wheat – just about guaranteeing America a showing this time, even in the face of soaring Russian competition).

Furthermore, Iraq tendered for 50,000 tonnes of wheat, while Thailand was revealed to have bought 35,000 tonnes of Australian wheat.


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