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Morning markets: crops sag under weight of big-picture fears

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How much buying was left unfulfilled in


, after the last session's close up the exchange maximum in Chicago?

The answer was "not much".

That's not to say that the jump looked an anomaly.

"While there is a possibility of profit-taking hitting the market, the corn market bulls have a number of factors working in their favour," Brian Henry at Benson Quinn Commodities said.

His list included a more supportive technical structure, with several key chart points taken out, besides the appeal of commodities as a hedge against inflation" in the face of a US dollar that is expected to work lower".

"For now the last group [of investors] that seems to have excess cash is willing to own commodities."

Macro concerns

But they may nonetheless have second thoughts about acting right now, with the storm in external markets continuing unabated.

Tokyo shares echoed Tuesday's 2.2% drop in Wall Street by plunging 2.1%, while West Texas Intermediate


was 0.6% lower at 07:40 GMT (08:40 UK time) at $93.21 a barrel.

The boost fostered by US approval of a debt ceiling deal has been obliterated by fears that America's debt rating will suffer nonetheless, and by data showing the country's consumer spending fell 0.2% in June, the first month-on-month decline in nearly two years.

Furthermore, there are reports in China that another interest rate rise may be brewing for August 10.

Crop downgrades

Then, crop-specifically, FCStone came out overnight with corn estimates which, while well below US Department of Agriculture estimates, were not as low as some had expected.

The broker pegged the harvest at 13.00bn bushels with a yield of 153.2 bushels per acre, compared with official estimates of 13.47bn bushels 158.7 bushels per acre.

But an FCStone executive, Pete Anderson, last week said the crop would end up a "little under" 13bn bushels.

And the yield estimate was no match for the 150-bushels-per-acre figure produced by Commodity Weather Group, a downgrade from a previous forecast of 156.8 bushels per acre, which fuelled Tuesday's rally.

'Pictures of poor-pollinated corn'

Indeed, the market "is now increasingly pricing in well-below-trend corn yields", Paul Deane at Australia & New Zealand Bank said.

That means "the corn market is likely to be underwhelmed by any small cuts to yield the USDA may release next week", when it unveils its monthly flagship Wasde world crop report.

Indeed, Mike Mawdsley at Market 1 noted that this Wasde briefing "typically just factors in population and ear counts, not what the ear looks like", while noting that there are "more and more concerns mounting about the heat and pollination issues with corn over the entire Corn Belt.

"Pictures of poor-pollinated corn are showing up on the internet and in e-mails."

Corn for September managed only 0.4% gains before returning back to $7.10 ¾ a bushel, down 0.5 cents on last night's close.

The better-traded December lot was 0.75 cents lower at $7.15 a bushel.

The v word

And with corn, the market leader, fading, there was little hope of


building on the last session's highest close in seven weeks, even with the "v word" building as a scare in the US spring crop.

"The potential for vomitoxin and other problems has been a reality ever since the wet spring and historically late-planted crop," Jonathan Watters at Benson Quinn said.

The fears over vomitoxin, a fungal residue which in high enough quantities renders grain unfit for feed use, let alone food, follow cautions last week from analysts on the Wheat Quality Council's US spring wheat tour over levels of crop disease.

Chicago wheat for September dipped 0.5% to $7.14 ½ a bushel, while Minneapolis spring wheat for the same month fell 0.4% to $8.46 a bushel.

'Not bode well'


fell 0.4% to $13.73 ¾ a bushel in Chicago, for November delivery, with their decline braked by the worsening quality of the US crop

"Weather remains a big factor as the crop condition had a two-point week to week decline [to 60% rated good or excellent] and development is behind the normal pace," Ker Chung Yang at Phillip Futures said.

And, once again,


succumbed to early nerves, falling 1.7% to 150.09 cents a pound.

"A weak economic environment does not bode well for future cotton consumption," Luke Mathews at Commonwealth Bank of Australia said.

"Providing some underlying support to values is the expectation that US cotton production will be revised lower by the USDA next week because of poor growing conditions this year.

"But still, given good production prospects in other parts of the world and the uncertain economic outlook, we struggle to see values rallying, and holding, above 110 cents a pound."


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