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Morning markets: crops sprint into June

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Food commodities started June where they left off May – with their best foot forward – helped by fresh gains in external markets.

Tokyo's Nikkei share index closed up at 1.6% at its highest for nearly eight months, with oil edging to a seven-month high. New York crude for July stood 1.3% higher at $67.17 a barrel at 06:00 GMT, and Brent crude was up 1.3% at 66.38 a barrel.

Commodities are being helped by inflows of money from funds who have been investing some of the cash held aside during the worst of the winter bear market.

"We are seeing funds starting to increase their inflows into equities and commodities, hoping to cash in on economic rebound and demand for raw materials," Toby Hassall, an analyst with Commodity Warrants Australia, told Reuters, the news agency.

Many investors are concerned about a resurgence in inflation, of which commodities are viewed are a decent hedge.

"There is the issue of inflationary pressure if we do see a V-shaped world recovery," Mr Hassall said.

Rising exports

Palm oil was helped by fundamentals too, with Intertek Testing Services, a cargo surveyor, saying that Malaysian exports of the vegetable oil for May were, at 1.21m tonnes, 1.7% higher than in April.

Bursa Malaysia's benchmark August contract added 58 ringgit, or 2.3%, to 2,618 ringgit in the morning session.

That was before later export data from Societe Generale de Surveillance, another cargo surveyor, which put the rise in shipments last month at 5.1%, to 1.23m tonnes.

Stockpile worries

In Chicago, soybeans stood within an ace of retaking the $12 a bushel mark – adding 15.5 cents to $11.99 ½ a bushel for the July contract – as fears continued for the impact of strong Chinese demand on limited US inventories.

"We do still have planting delays, which are adding to the concerns that inventories of soybeans will be significantly low this year," Mr Hassall said.

"Add to the mix a weaker US dollar, which will spur export volumes. "We are getting very concerned about the old crop stockpiles."

Fungus threat

Wheat, meanwhile, May's star performer, added 8 cents to $6.45 ½ a bushel for July delivery. Despite bumper stockpiles, wheat has been boosted for the impact of dry weather on European and US winter crops, and of slow planting on America's spring wheat harvest thanks to wet weather.

Now, traders are talking of a disease threat too, with the damp spring increasing the threat of so-called "head scab", a fungal infection.

Corn was the weakest performer, adding 1.75 cents to $4.38 ¼ a bushel for the July contract.

By Mike Verdin

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