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Morning markets: crop futures bask in break in macro clouds

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A break in the clouds over the world economy allowed risk assets, food commodities included, a better start to the week.

The apparent dearth of any dismal news over the weekend helped shares higher. Tokyo's Nikkei index closed 1.4% higher, while Shanghai stocks were up 1.1% in late deals.

The

dollar

was on the decline, easing 0.2% against a basket of currencies and so making dollar-denominated exports, such as many commodities that much more attractive.

While

oil

couldn't take advantage of the better conditions, posting only small gains, crops did better - also still feeling a glow from last week's downgrade by the US to hopes for domestic corn, soybean and wheat crops.

Saudi Arabia buys

In fact, it was

wheat

, which was effected least by last the downgrades, which managed the best start, adding 1.1% to $7.10 ¾ bushel in Chicago for September, as of 07:40 GMT (08:40 UK time).

The contract had going for it the result of a big wheat tender which, for once, made no mention of Russia winning at least part. Saudi Arabia announced that it was to buy 660,000 tonnes of the grain from Canada, the European Union and the US.

Following on from an Algerian order on Friday for 500,000 tonnes of wheat, which is believed likely to end up coming from France, and the demand picture for the grain looked healthier for Western supplies, even at relatively high price levels.

In the US, concerns for the grain are being whipped up too by the continued hot and dry weather in the South which, if it extends into next month, will mean farmers, who have just harvested a drought-tested winter wheat crop, planting their next crop into parched soil too.

Temperatures in parts of eastern Texas and western Louisiana topped 100 degrees Fahrenheit on Saturday, and further hot weather is on its way.

'Market unconvinced'

Indeed,

cotton

, of which some half the US crop is grown in Texas, made some further gains in New York following its close to the last session up the exchange maximum.

"It appears that the cotton market is unconvinced of the US Department of Agriculture's latest US cotton production forecast, with some saying a downward revision may be forthcoming," Luke Mathews at Commonwealth Bank of Australia said.

(The USDA last week, in a surprise to the market, raised its estimate for the US cotton yield on acres which make it to harvest rising a level high by historical standards, if still seeing large areas abandoned.)

'Critical' level

The December cotton lot added 0.7% to 101.26 cents a pound – with a chart tick-point in sight.

"Technically, a close above 101.50 cents a pound, which will take out the nine-through-21 day moving averages and the 2 ½ month downtrend line, should open the door for a challenge of the very important gap between 108.88 to 108.85 cents a pound," veteran analyst Mike Stevens in Louisiana said.

Clearing 108.88 cents a pound "is critical", in that it would identify last week's dip as, in chart-speak, "a double bottom".

"However, without a change in current bearish fundamentals, selling anticipated to await the 111.00-113.00 [level] should be substantial," Mr Stevens added.

Heat ahead?

Back in Chicago,

corn

and

soybeans

moved pretty much in step, benefiting from generally better sentiment and the continued impact of last week's USDA downgrades to US crop estimates.

There is also the prospect of further heat later in the month, although there are questions whether the hot weather will make it far into the Midwest.

"Some of the heat" in the August21-27 timescale "will move east into the western Plains," WxRisk.com said.

But while the GFS weather model "forecasts temperatures well above normal over the western Corn Belt and Mississippi Delta regions", the European model see the heat staying further west and south, with the "Midwest seeing normal temperatures but the Plains states staying [with] above-normal temperatures".

Match, but no better

Still the most-traded December corn struggled to turn its better fundamentals into fresh pricing territory.

The contract matched its contract high set in June of $7.22 ¾ a bushel in early deals, and so reached its highest level for two months, but could not improve before easing back to $7.19 ¼ a bushel, up 0.7% on the day.

The November soybean contract was also 0.7% higher, at $7.19 ¼ a bushel.

The oilseed later faces the prospect of the National Oilseed Processors Association's July crush data, which is expected to come at 115.3m-119m bushels.

'Relief rally'

Sticking with oilseeds,

palm oil

continued its rally in Kuala Lumpur, adding 1.4% to 3,057 ringgit a tonne, for October, and putting further distance between itself and its nine-month low of 2,937 ringgit a tonne reached last week.

The oilseed is being boosted in part by worse prospects for fellow oilseed soybeans, and in part by some question mark over Malaysian production prospects for the rest of 2011 too.

Technically, "the reversal in candlestick formation suggests that palm oil may stage for a relief rally soon", Ker Chung Yang at Phillip Futures in Singapore said, adding that some moving average analysis too suggested that "the bearish movement may come to the end".

"The near-term support is at the 2,950-ringgit-a-tonne level. Should palm oil breach the significant psychological level of 3,100 ringgit, we will not be surprised if it moves closer towards the 3,180 ringgit level," he added.

By Agrimoney.com

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