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Morning markets: crops feed on signs of eurozone redemption

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Is Europe getting its act together?

There were signs of progress, anyway, in Greece, where former European Central Bank vice-president Lucas Papademos was appointed prime minister, and Italy, where former European Union commissioner Mario Monti is emerging as a likely successor to Silvio Berlusconi.

The progress towards forming what look like being unity governments in both countries, and giving at least the sense of a hand on the tiller, boosted market sentiment, giving that "risk-on" feel, if perhaps "risk-on lite".

Shares

rose, reasonably substantially on some stockmarkets, such as Sydney's, where they gained 1.2%, and Seoul's, where the gain was 2.8%. European markets opened marginally positive.

And the safe haven of the

dollar

fell 0.4% as of 08:50 GMT, boosting the appeal of dollar-denominated assets to buyers in other currencies.

Crude-corn equation

Indeed, many commodities showed gains, with London

copper

adding 0.7% and New York

crude

setting a fresh three-month high of $98.53 a barrel – a potential stimulus to crops such as

corn

used in making biofuels.

"If crude pops to $110.00 a barrel, corn will likely rally back to $7.00 a bushel. If crude rallies to $150.00, corn could approach $8.00 or higher," GrainAnalyst.com trader Matthew Pierce said.

And, indeed, corn gained in Chicago, by 0.6% to $6.49 ½ a bushel for December delivery, continuing to gain support from the idea that domestic demand for the grain is firm, from ethanol plants and cattle and hog feeders, even if export prospects are more vulnerable, as data on Thursday showed.

Imports from Brazil?

That said, one rumour stalking the markets does question whether domestic buyers may be looking elsewhere for feed grain too.

Mike Mawdsley at Market 1, among others, clocked "talk that 4m bushels of feed

wheat

will be imported from Brazil and go to the Carolinas", for poultry producers.

It is possible. While Brazil is a big net importer of wheat, it requires the milling variety, meaning much of its own, mixed-quality crop (damaged by harvest rains) is used only for livestock feeding (where it must compete with ample quantities of corn) or export.

At Benson Quinn Commodities, Jon Michalscheck said he "would assume that the number may in fact work or that sort of news usually doesn't get started".

"Chatter over the past month or so that global feed wheat prices have been trading at a $40-60 per tonne discount to US corn would mostly likely pay the freight to get some of the origins to the US."

Shorts covered

And this against a growing idea of China turning increasingly to wheat too, in the face of high corn prices, to keep its hog herd fed. Unlike corn, the world has ample supplies of wheat, with stocks seen by the US Department of Agriculture as ending 2011-12 at a 10-year high.

Earlier this week, China was rumoured to have bought a further 1.0m tonnes of feed wheat from Australia.

Whatever, Chicago speculators proved reluctant to add to their historically high net short position in wheat, and indeed took a few profits after the last session's 3% tumble, helping the December lot add 0.9% to $6.25 ½ a bushel.

Signally, Kansas hard red winter wheat, which lacks such speculative interest, achieved only a 0.2% gain to $6.98 ¼ a bushel.

Helpful rains

But could

soybeans

follow suit this time?

After all, prospects for South American crops only seem to be improving, with recent rains potentially increasing the acreage that Argentine farmers will plant with the oilseed, the Buenos Aires Grains Exchange said.

"There could be an impact on planned sowing, increasing the zone above our current projection," the exchange said later on Thursday in a weekly report.

"Strong rains fell over most farming areas in the days leading up to this report. These showers allowed the recharging of soils in most growing areas, guaranteeing very good flowering of soy over the weeks ahead."

'Dire need of a supportive story'

At Minneapolis-based Benson Quinn, Brian Henry said: "The crop down there is getting planted and growing conditions in many areas remain favourable.

"There have been very few signs of the potential La Nina developing in this region."

Indeed, this raised questions over the sustainability of a 1.0% rise to $11.79 a bushel in Chicago's January soybean contract.

"The market is approaching oversold conditions, which could a round of short covering as we approach the weekend," he said.

"But, this market is in dire need of a supportive story. Unless the weather in South America becomes less favourable, short covering rallies are about all one can expect."

Cotton slows

Elsewhere, New York

cotton

continued its upward journey after bumper US export data on Thursday, but not so enthusiastically, adding a modest 0.04 cents to 99.54 cents a pound.

As analysts such as Louisiana's Mike Stevens pointed out, weekly export sales of 1m running bales depended on one bulk order to China, which appeared to be restoring inventories, and were soft elsewhere.

But

palm oil

continued its recent upward journey, boosted by prospects of diminishing production and by bumper Malaysian export data, at one point reaching 3,160 ringgit a tonne for January delivery, the highest since July.

The contract eased back to 3,144 ringgit a tonne, up 0.8% on the day.

By Agrimoney.com

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