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Morning markets: crops sweat over swine fever

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Commodities started the week in a stew over swine flu, as fears that pandemic would knock demand for meat and grains sent.

Concerns over the outbreak sent prices in many financial markets into reverse – with gold, a safe haven, a notable exception. The price of New York crude for June dipped 2.6% to $50.23 a barrel, with Brent crude down 1.9% at $50.68 a barrel at 06:15 GMT.

However, commodities were particularly badly hit as investors mulled the impact's effect on the meat industry, and thereby on demand for livestock feed.

The outbreak has already prompted security measures, with Russia banning imports of raw pork and pork products from Mexico and the US states of California, Texas and Kansas.

Down markets

May soybeans slumped 50.25 cents – or 4.8% - to $9.90 a bushel in Chicago, with May corn falling 14.25 cents, or 3.8%, to $3.62 ¾.

May wheat was the best of a bad bunch, down 12.25 cents, or 2.3%, at $5.20 a bushel.

Palm oil too was affected, giving up some of last week's gains, and ignoring hopes for Malaysian palm export data due later. Bursa Malaysia's benchmark July contract stood 93 ringgit, or 3.6%, down at 2,492 ringgit a tonne, albeit above a day low of 2,475 ringgit a tonne.

"The palm oil market is pausing its rally to take stock of this swine flu fear," a trader said. "If soyoil drops, we will suffer indirectly."

By Mike Verdin

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