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Morning markets: euro woes keep pressure on farm commodities

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Thanksgiving, it appears, was nothing more than an interval in the agricultural commodities bear market.

The plot was the same - a selling on - after US exchanges reopened after the one-day holiday.

That prompted a fresh round of multi-month lows.



for January, for instance, at one point touched $11.09 a bushel, a new 13-month low. Not since October last year have we seen the oilseed's price begin with a $10.

Chinese imports to rise

And this despite hope for Chinese soybean imports presented by the country's CNGOIC crop bureau, which saw them recovering from 3.85m tonnes in October to 5.5m tonnes this month and 5m tonnes in December,

In the first quarter of 2012, imports will come in at 13m tonnes, getting on for 20% ahead of those a year before, the bureau said, citing improved margins for oilseed crushers.

Furthermore, the weather in Argentina has turned drier, potentially a sign of La Nina digging in its claws, to the detriment of farmers.

Soybeans recovered some ground, but not much, standing at $11.11 ¼ a bushel at 08:20 GMT, down 1.0% on the day.

Another downgrade

Still, the usual macro-economic headwinds, notably surrounding the eurozone, were still hanging around to greet investors.

"Global markets are likely to remain strained in the absence of decisive action to restore confidence in key euro debt markets," Barclays Capital said.

And decisive action in terms of eurozone bonds was again reaffirmed off the agenda by Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, despite her country too getting caught in a debt market skirmish, in terms of its bonds not selling well at an auction on Wednesday.

The cancer of credit rating downgrades also spread to (non-eurozone) Hungary, a victim of a Moody's rerating, after (eurozone) Portugal was downgraded by Fitch too.

Shares dip



markets reacted poorly, although Tokyo's Nikkei index edged down a modest 0.1%, albeit to a fresh low since April 2009, having got its selling in earlier in the week.

Seoul shares lost 1.0% and Sydney stocks 1.5%, with shanghai and Singapore stocks down a bit under 1.0% in late deals.



added 0.2%, making gains harder for dollar-denominated assets such as many commodities in making them less affordable as exports.



edged 0.2% lower, to $107.58 a barrel.

EU tariffs

In the same vein, Lynette Tan at Phillip Futures in Singapore said that "the deepening eurozone crisis could also post more threat for US


as a stronger dollar makes it less competitive".

And, indeed, Chicago's December lot fell 0.4% to $5.77 a bushel, while the better-traded March contract lost 0.6% to $5.90 ¾ a bushel.

The hangover from Thursday's trade in Europe wasn't exactly encouraging, posting small falls after the European Union agreed to extend a period of zero tariff imports, up to about 1.2m tonnes, on feed wheat and barley to June.

Australia rains

Sure, the news coming out of Australia isn't all encouraging, with harvest rains pointing to quality challenges.

"Some areas of northern New South Wales have received up to 100mm of rain in the past 24 hours, with the outlook today for more rain," Paul Deane at Australia & New Zealand Bank said.

But setbacks are still not a patch on last year's, when a stronger La Nina did far more significant damage.

Eastern Australian grain handler Graincorp on Thursday, unveiling results at receivals of 5.2m tonnes of wheat, barley, canola, and pulses so far this season, said that "the quality of grain harvested is higher than last year due to the drier lead up to harvest".

Data later

Wheat's drop was hardly good news for


, which failed too to gain supportive talk of Chinese buying, as many have hoped for now it is back below $6 a bushel, a level which has got Beijing to open its cheque book before.

The December contract shed 0.6% to $5.85 ½ a bushel, with the March lot down 0.6% to $5.92 a bushel.

More on US exports will be seen later in weekly export sales data, which the trade sees coming in sat 400,000-600,000 tonnes for corn, a big improvement on the 209,000 tonnes last time.

For wheat, export sales are pegged at 300,000-450,000 tonnes, compared with 335,000 tonnes the previous week, and for soybeans, 500,000-750,000 tonnes, versus 751,000 tonnes.

'Favourable price level'

There is hope for bulls, with


returning with a spring in its step, adding 0.9% to 91.51 cents a pound for December, the same price as the March lot, which added 0.7% to get there, if still remaining near one-year lows.

The last two weekly export sales figures have seen huge Chinese buying, for inventories, and there has been talk of further orders.

"Given the favourable price level, China can be expected to step up its cotton imports," Commerzbank said, noting estimates from the CNGOIC that "cotton imports by the Chinese new year celebrations in February could rise to 300,000 tons per month".

This "should prevent a further decline in cotton prices and lend support to rising prices".

'Time to change campsites'

Furthermore, in Chicago,


carved out gains of 0.2% to $2.93 a bushel for December, and 0.3% to $2.87 ¾ a bushel for March.

While the grain is not such a force on world markets as it was decades ago, it is seen in Chicago as a leading indicator, (albeit a false one to anyone who followed its rise on Tuesday).

And as Mike Mawdsley at Market 1 noted: "At the moment it appears there is no reason for commodities to ever rally again and everyone is in the bear camp.

"Typically when everyone is in the same camp, it's time to change campsites."


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