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Morning markets: crops do best to beat flu fears

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Farm commodities woke up sluggish on Tuesday, if modestly recuperated, with grains not straying far in early deals despite fresh bad news over swine flu.

Overnight, the UK confirmed two patients with swine flu, with a further seven nations, from Australia to Peru to Israel, investigating suspected cases. The death toll in Mexico topped 150.

The World Health Organization said that the virus could no longer be contained.

Fears for the impact of the outbreak on already dicey global economy sent oil back below $50 a barrel, with Brent crude off 1.8% at 06:15 GMT and New York crude down 1.75. Japan's Nikkei shares index ended down 2.7%, while Seoul's main index was off 2.5% in late deals.

Planting progress

Grains, however, which bore the brunt of selling on Monday because of their exposure to feed markets, were composed. Chicago wheat even made it into positive territory, up 1.25 cents at $5.09 1/4 a bushel for the May contract, after a US planting update showed spring wheat plantings still delayed by poor weather, if well up on last week.

Corn, where US farmers had made greater progress, was 2.25 cents down at $3.70 a bushel. Soybeans, for which the US planting season is still in its infancy, was down 3.75 cents at $10.01 a bushel for May delivery.

Palm oil was in better form too, with Bursa Malaysia's benchmark July contract adding 1 ringgit to 2,482 ringgit a tonne amid reports of strong Malaysian exports.

Societe Generale de Surveillance estimated palm shipments up 2% in April compared with March, with rival cargo surveyor Intertek Testing Services putting growth at 7%.

By Mike Verdin

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