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Morning markets: crops fall back awaiting euro, USDA steer

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The first of Friday's three tests was passed OK, but was hardly a triumph.

Data show China's inflation rate moving in the right direction, falling from 5.5% in October to 4.2% last month, the lowest rate in more than a year.

But Jonathan Barratt, managing director at Commodity Broking Services in Sydney, spoke for many in saying he was "worried that China's slowing down too fast. That's the scare factor".

At least China has the luxury of room to ease monetary policy, unlike Europe, the second, and bigger, test for financial markets, with doubts rife that the a summit of the region's leaders will come up with a plan to put the eurozone debt crisis on the back foot.

Such concerns were reflected in falls in Asian shares, by 1.5% in Tokyo, 1.8% in Sydney and 2.0% in Seoul and a 0.3% rise in the safe haven of the

dollar

.

Sentiment shift?

Agricultural commodities' other test is a sector-specific one, the monthly US Department of Agriculture Wasde report, which is expected to show a small decline in US corn stocks and a rise in soybean inventories, with the opposite dynamic at the world level.

Indeed, it was mere position covering, rather than any improvement in sentiment, ahead of the report which was seen by many commentators as behind firm Chicago prices in the last session.

"Volume did not appear to be exceptionally large so it doesn't appear to have the makings of a price reversal change but more like a market that is consolidating ahead of the USDA report," Jon Michalscheck at Benson Quinn Commodities said.

He also noted that while funds were "estimated to have bought 7,000

corn

contracts on the day which if correct would have them up 5,000-6,000 contracts on the week" they were "still down close to 10,000 for the month".

Lynette Tan said the last session's "gains could be due to short-covering more than any shift in market sentiment".

'A tad drier'

Certainly, there was little appetite for further crop purchases in early deals on Friday.

Even

soybeans

dropped, by 0.3% to $11.28 ¾ a bushel for January delivery as of 08:15 GMT. And they have been a hope for bulls of late, appearing to stabilise after a fall to 13-month lows, on ideas of South American dryness.

"It is looking a tad drier in South America next week. Weather in South America will be the focus for beans going forward - bullish or bearish," Mike Mawdsley at Market 1 said.

On Thursday, they were helped by strong US export figure and a lowball Brazilian estimate, of 71.3m tonnes, for its harvest of the oilseed. (The USDA pegs the crop at 75m tonnes, and some local analysts have figures as high as 78m tonnes.)

Luke Mathews at Commonwealth Bank of Australia said that "the market will be closely watching the Wasde report tonight for a possible downgrade" by the USDA of its Brazil soybean forecast.

Which may be what helped the contract stay above its 10-day moving average, of $11.29 a bushel, a much-watched chart point, a fall through which might uncover automatic sell orders and prompt more significant losses.

Export dynamics

Corn for March remained above its 10-day line, at $5.95 ½ a bushel, too despite dropping 0.5% to $5.97 ½ a bushel.

China overnight was reported to be planning to buy up to 12m tonnes of corn to replenish reserves – but from local farmers, [at 2,000 yuan ($310) a tonne], putting a dampener on ideas of more purchases from the US despite prices below the $6 a bushel which has interested it in the past.

Indeed, there had been much comment at China's appearance on the roster of buyers at Thursday's, strong, US export sales report for corn, with buy-ins of 238,100 tonnes.

Not that everyone was getting too excited at the export data, with Scott Briggs at Australia & New Zealand bank pointing to the details of a Taiwanese purchase of corn – from Brazil.

"Our pencil works it out as maybe $0.75-1.00 a bushel cheaper than comparative US corn out of the Pacific north west," he said,

'Lot of grains tendering action'

Still, Taiwan did have some good news for US wheat, with the country's Flour Millers' Association buying 85,750 tonnes of the grain, at prices between $262 a tonne including freight (for white wheat) and $416 a tonne (spring wheat).

This offered some consolation after losses in a series of recent tenders, including in Iraqi and Tunisian tenders unveiled on Thursday.

"There has been a lot of grains tendering action the last week," Mr Briggs said, if adding that, with delivery scheduled through to the end of the first quarter, rather than for now and indicating some desperation by buyers, the orders were "not taken as particularly bullish".

Chicago wheat dropped too, by 0.4% to $5.94 ¾ a bushel for March.

'A little unsettling'

Elsewhere, Kuala Lumpur

palm oil

declined as well, down 0.7% at 3,067 ringgit a tonne for February delivery, as the modestly bearish trend spread abroad, overcoming weather fears in Malaysia, where the weekend looks set to bring heavy rain and flooding to palm producing states of Johor and Pahang.

But

cotton

proved contrary, adding 0.5% to 92.48 cents a pound for March, and this despite some poor US export data on Thursday too, showing a net cancellation of 34,000 running bales.

"The cotton numbers weren't good," said Australia & New Zealand Bank, where Mr Briggs termed them "a little unsettling".

Still, there is talk of buying around in recent days, as Agrimoney.com reported earlier, which may yet turn up in data revealed next Thursday.

By Agrimoney.com

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