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Morning markets: crops battle with SA rain, euro debt fears

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Which way now?

Agricultural commodities had good reason to drop on Thursday, with ideas that rain relief next week for Argentine crops will prove more significant than had been thought.

Furthermore, outside markets were broadly a little negative, as eurozone debt concerns reasserted themselves. Greece warned it may default in March unless unions agree further salary cuts, while Spain has unveiled plans for an extra E50bn in bank provisions.

Shares eased in early deals in Europe, notably in Spain, where they fell 1.2%.

'Further downgrades likely'

Still, investors were not too downbeat on crops, with the prospect of further South American crop downgrades ahead, following those from the likes of Cropcast, Soybean and Corn Advisor and RJ O'Brien already this week.

"Some are already talking about an Argentina

corn

crop near 24m tonnes versus the current US Department of Agriculture guess of 29m tonnes," Mike Mawdsley at Iowa-based broker Market 1 said.

"Any cuts to their production could also come right off their export sheet," so boosting US shipments.

"Rain is forecast in Argentina from Tuesday next week, but further production cuts are likely between now and then," Luke Mathews at Commonwealth Bank of Australia said.

Wetter weather

The latest run of the GFS weather model "is wetter for central and eastern Argentina with the cold front that moves in January 11-12", David Tolleris at WxRisk.com said.

"The new GFS now moves these storms into the heart of Argentina with heavy amounts - 0.75-3.00 inches with 70% coverage".

"The storms move north east into Paraguay, south east and south west Brazil on January 13-14."

All beneficial for areas where crops have suffered a dearth of moisture so far this growing season.

'Another heat dome'

OK, the news is not all so good for farmers.

"The GFS now agrees with the European model and develops another heat dome in the 11-15 day [outlook] over Bolivia and northern Argentina," Mr Tolleris added.

And certainly, crops failed to show too much reaction in early deals to the wetter Argentine outlook.

"Stress will temporarily relieved [by the rainfall], but follow-up rains will be needed," Benson Quinn Commodities said.

Reluctant to give back premium

The prospect of poor South American harvests is seen as a boost to ideas on US crop exports, about which more will be known next Thursday, when the USDA unveils its latest Wasde report on world crop supply and demand.

However, despite the growing ideas on South American rain, Chicago corn and

soybean

futures have been "acting as if they were reluctant to give up much of the recent premium until either they are more comfortable with the South American weather pattern and/or the USDA releases a bearish supply and demand report next week", Benson Quinn said.

Chicago corn for March was 0.25 cents higher at $6.58 ¾ a bushel as of 08:50 GMT, with March soybeans easing 0.1% to $12.28 ¼ a bushel.

'Poor fundamental outlook'

The bigger loser among Chicago's big three was

wheat

, being less affected by South America's weather travails, with the latest harvest mostly already in the barn.

Furthermore, as Lynette Tan at Phillip Futures said, "wheat continues to suffer from a poor fundamental outlook, as ample world supplies and heavy competition in global export markets paint a bearish picture for US wheat at current prices".

Benson Quinn said: "Wheat trading on its own merits should allow a test of the 50-day moving averages in Chicago and Kansas, which is basically $0.20 a bushel below the market closed today."

And in Minneapolis, where hard red spring wheat is traded, charts "are an absolute mess", the broker added.

"It appears the speculative trade is interested is reducing Minneapolis March [contract] length that it has held against Chicago and Kansas.

"As we emerge from the holiday season, it appears the mills in the northern plains remain satisfied, for the most part."

Prices dip

Furthermore, wheat prices remained under some pressure from data earlier this week showing improvement in the condition of hard red winter wheat seedlings, notably in Kansas, America's top wheat-producing state.

The grain lost 0.5% in Chicago for March delivery, to stand at $6.46 ¾ a bushel, and 0.2% in Kansas, to stand at $7.12 ½ a bushel.

The Minneapolis March lot fell 0.2% to $8.37 ¼ a bushel, standing just above its 20-day moving average, which in the last session provided technical resistance to further decline.

'Exceptional value - to farmers'

In New York,

cotton

was in a declining mood too, dropping 0.1% to 95.80 cents a pound for March delivery.

"Since mid-December, cotton prices have rallied nearly 11.5 cents," CBA's Luke Mathews said.

"Given prospects for larger crops in 2012, and the extremely fragile global economic outlook, we believe prices above 95 cents offer exceptional value to producers."

And the selling spread abroad, with Kuala Lumpur

palm oil

losing 0.7% to 3,203 ringgit a tonne for March delivery.

'Buying slowdown'

Tokyo

rubber

eased 0.6% to 266.40 yen a kilogramme, with Ker Chung Yan at Phillip Futures noting concerns of a "buying slowdown in China ahead of the week-long Lunar new year holiday this month.

"The Association of Natural Rubber Producing Countries said on Wednesday that natural rubber prices in the first quarter will be supported by the low-production season starting in February, but gains may be limited by sluggish demand due to macroeconomic factors."

By Agrimoney.com

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