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Morning markets: ethanol defeat eases nerves on corn market

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Who says commodities all move as a herd these days?

Agricultural commodities, having missed out on broader gains in raw material prices in the last session, turned the tables, a little, on Wednesday, moving ahead even while the likes of oil and copper eased.

Indeed, many risk assets were spooked by a European failure to seal a fresh aid deal for debt-stricken Greece, with Shanghai stocks shedding 0.6% in late deals too.

The

dollar

revived too on the Greek concerns, adding 0.4% against a basket of currencies, a depressant for the value of dollar-denominated assets, making them less affordable as exports.

Ethanol vote

Still,

corn

followed up its near limit-down loss of the last session with a small uptick this time, up 0.5 cents at $7.56 a bushel for July delivery, after the US Senate voted out plans to scrap tax perks for the ethanol industry.

While even a negative vote would not have had immediate impact – the proposal would still have had to go through Congress and get sign-off from President Barack Obama before becoming law in what was expected to have been a lengthy process – the ballot was seen as a measure of support for ethanol industry when the time does come to decide whether to extend the concessions.

And the defeat by 59 votes to 40 of the move appeared an indication that getting shot of the perks in one fell swoop may be an uphill struggle.

'Severe stress from heat'

Furthermore, while US corn conditions are generally better for growing than they were for sowing, that does not warrant the removal of all weather premium.

"We do note corn conditions in the southern regions of the US are under severe stress from the heat. This may be a newsworthy item as the summer progresses," Mike Mawdsley at Market 1 said.

Indeed, the new crop December lot outperformed, old crop contracts adding 2 cents to $6.87 a bushel.

"A long growing season lies ahead. We expect rallies and sell offs to be common this summer, and some of those ranges may be large," Mr Mawdsley added.

'Yields are recovering'

Wheat

was modestly higher too, helped by continued talk of some substitution of the grain for expensive corn in the US, while the Canadian Wheat Board overnight highlighted the setbacks facing Canadian spring sowings.

The Canadian wheat crop could be even lower than last year's wet-affected result.

That said, gains were limited to 0.2% for Chicago's July lot, taking it to $7.32 ¾ a bushel, thanks in part to pressure from the US harvest causing a sudden uptick in supplies.

"Wheat continues to search for support. But It's hard to do as harvest has begun and seasonal tendencies are lower into July," Mr Mawdsley said.

Furthermore, fears for Europe's drought-tested crops are waning follow rain which "will allow grain filling to improve," Agritel, the Paris-based consultancy, said. "Potential yields are recovering."

Furthermore, Australia overnight highlighted prospects for an excellent crop, pegging exports potentially rising 9% to 20.1m tonnes in 2011-12.

Floods question

Nonetheless, it was

soybeans

which, again, proved the best performer, even with a modest rise of 0.4% to $13.73 a bushel for July.

While the US Department of Agriculture last week lifted forecasts for domestic soybean stocks at the close of both 2010-11 and 2011-12, "one needs to keep in mind that USDA did not address late planting or flooding issues in the Mississippi and Missouri river valleys when they left production estimates unchanged", Kim Rugel at Benson Quinn Commodities said.

"Also, weather may be favourable now but, key yield determining stage is still far ahead into the future, and extended forecasts are pointing to a warming and drier trend to develop for August and September."

The need for "increased weather risk premium could arise at any time".

Furthermore, there are rumours hanging around that China has been raising its game in soybean imports, although more may be known in US weekly export data due on Thursday.

Exports pick up

Indeed, China appears to be shipping in more of another oilseed product,

palm oil

, to judge by Malaysian palm export data from cargo surveyor Intertek Testing Services.

Total Malaysian palm exports so far this month are 26% higher than the same period in May, with shipments to China up nearly 20%.

That said, data from rival cargo surveyor Societe Generale de Surveillance pegged the total increase at 16%, with a dip in Chinese trade.

With expectations still rife of a strong rise in Malaysian palm production, gains for Kuala Lumpur palm oil futures were limited to 0.3% for the August contract, taking it to 3,264 ringgit a tonne.

'Dark demand clouds'

Back in the US, Tuesday's Chinese economic data, received with relief if not outright joy, were viewed as continuing to support New York

cotton

, as were fears for the drought-tested US crop.

The July contract gained 1.3% to 157.50 cents a pound while the new crop December contract added 0.3% to 132.16 cents a pound.

"However, dark demand clouds continue to loom-large over the complex," Luke Mathews at Commonwealth Bank of Australia warned.

"More production cuts are expected in Indian cotton mills because of continued weak demand."

*As an aside an intriguing point from Agritel noting a locust invasion of southern Russia.

"More than 77,000 hectares have already been treated with pesticides but the [Russian] Department of Agriculture considers that this measure is not sufficient," the consultancy said.

Drought followed by locust invasion really is looking Biblical.

By Agrimoney.com

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