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Morning markets: crop futures baulk as chart battle looms

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Groundhog day?

Once again, most agricultural commodities following off a strong finish with a weak start.

This time, the move was in line with external markets, which maintained nerves at the extent of money, a bigger-than-expected E489bn, borrowed by European banks from the European Central Bank on Wednesday in an effort to shore up liquidity.


closed 0.8% lower in Tokyo, 0.1% lower in Seoul and down 0.5% in Sydney.

And while the


was a touch easier, falling 0.1% as of 08:00 GMT in a decline seen driven by profit-taking, dollar-denominated commodities failed to take the heart they might have done at becoming more affordable to buyers in other currencies.



alipped 0.1%, withLondon


lower too.

Technical picture

And Chicago prices were generally weaker too, shying away from the prospect of technical showdowns.

The rallies in the last few days have given the chart picture a far more bullish look. Kim Rugel at Benson Quinn Commodities, for instance, noted that in


, "with the 10-day moving average trending up towards the 20-day, the technicals may attract fresh buying interest".





are well above their 20-day moving averages, which two weeks ago had looked well above imminent reach.

However, a grain is only as good as its next chart confrontation – with the 50-day lines.

"That's not so far away now," Mike Mawdsley at broker Market 1 said. For March corn, the line is at $6.29 ¼ a bushel, some 2% above the last session's close, and for wheat $6.33 a bushel, ditto.

Minneapolis hard red spring wheat for March ended some 0.6% from its 50-day moving average of $8.46 ¾ a bushel.

'Big resistance'

But such a key chart point will offer "big resistance" to further upward progress, Mr Mawdsley warned.

And they do not, yet, seem to be getting enough support from South America dryness fears to propel them through this ceiling. said that overnight weather models "do not show any significant changes" to the outlook, meaning rain for at least some needy areas in Argentina and Brazil.

As Lynette Tan at Phillip Futures noted, "much-needed rains are expected through Thursday for corn fields in Argentina and southern Brazil, offering short-term relief from dry conditions as stressful weather returns next week.

"For the week ahead, the market will be closely watching the South American weather for price direction as corn and soybean crops enter the critical development phase."

Benson Quinn's Rugel said: "New longs will be needed if market is to sustain upward momentum, especially if producer returns as a seller after the new year."

Data later

So a turn worse in the weather forecast is one hope for bulls in seeing the 50-day levels breached.

Another is weekly US export sales data due later, which are expected to see a soybean figure of 400,000-600,000 tonnes, compared with 468,600 tonnes last time.

For corn, export sales are seen at 450,000-650,000 tonnes, compared with 505,900 tonnes the previous week, and for wheat at 300,000-450,000 tonnes, compared with 318,300 tonnes.

In fact, there has been reasonable activity on the wheat trade front of late, with Jordan buying 100,000 tonnes of wheat on Wednesday, from unknown origin, while Qatar bought 20,000 tonnes of milling wheat, and Israel buying 30,000 tonnes of feed wheat, 27,000 tonnes of corn and 10,000 tonnes of sorghum.

Tunisia has tendered for 75,000 tonnes of durum wheat, optional origin, with Thailand also on the prowl.

Corn vs wheat

"Many countries continue to seek feed wheat," Benson Quinn said, with the grain competitively priced compared with corn.

Indeed, corn regained its, atypical, premium by easing only 0.1% to $6.15 ¾ a bushel in Chicago, where wheat lost 0.3% to $6.15 a bushel. Both March contracts.

January soybeans fell 0.5% to $11.47 ¾ a bushel.

Bulls were better served in the oilseed complex by

palm oil

, which added 0.4% to 3,085 ringgit a tonne, continuing to gain support from poor weather in Malaysia, where the official forecasters maintained a warning of heavy rains in the state of Johor that may last until Thursday.


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