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Morning markets: eurozone split spikes grain price revival

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Is the fight back over?

The late selling wave which dragged agricultural commodities well below their day highs in the last session extended into this one, as doubts emerged that the eurozone debt crisis was on its way to a solution after all.

The eurozone's 17 member states are, according to the Financial Times, at odds over the smallprint of the latest Greek rescue package, and notably over the pain that private bondholders will be forced to take.

That was enough to force markets into more of a "risk-off" mode, with many Asian

share

markets falling (although Tokyo's Nikkei index did manage a 0.1% rise) and the

dollar

higher, by 0.3%, a sign of a quest for a safe haven.

Brent

crude

dropped 0.8% back below $107 a barrel as of 07:10 GMT (08:10 UK time), and the big Chicago grains fell further.

'Extremely resilient'

And just as many observers were beginning to feel more comfortable with agricultural commodity prices.

"While it's been a tough few months in most markets… it's worth taking stock if this is as bad as it gets," Paul Deane at Australia & New Zealand Bank said before Wednesday's selling got into stride.

"The reality is ag markets have been extremely resilient. After all we still have

corn

at $6.50 a bushel,

sugar

at 26 cents a pound and

cotton

hovering at 100 cents a pound.

"For all three of these markets prices have only been higher 15-20% of time over the last five years."

'Demand picture not too optimistic'

Did he speak too soon?

Brian Henry at Benson Quinn Commodities was more downbeat, noting wheat's pullback in the last session.

"The fact that wheat was not able to hold the highs early in the session and that it traded with a weak tone late in the session does not dissuade me from thinking that the correction can continue," he said.

And, at Phillip Futures, Lynette Tan noted further reasons for caution, such as the continued lack of confirmation of further Chinese orders of US corn on this month's break.

"For now, the demand picture doesn't look too optimistic with China's corn forecast to be a bumper crop year with expanded acreage," she said.

Furthermore, "Chinese importers also have their near-term needs mostly filled through early December following heavier-than-normal bookings from South America in recent weeks".

Besides, some in Chicago believe that China still has 2m tonnes of US corn still unshipped from purchases earlier in the year.

'Traders worry'

And if demand is around, a dollar still trading around 5% higher against a basket of currencies improves the case for buyers to turn elsewhere.

"Competition from rival corn exporters and from cheaper alternative feed grains, such as feed wheat, are starting to ration demand for US corn," Ms Tan said, noting that Ukraine corn "is priced at least $15 per tonne cheaper than US corn".

And then there is the prospect of US Department of Agriculture data on September 1 grain stocks, due on Friday, to consider, besides the day bringing the end of the month and quarter, viewed as times when funds often sell down holdings amid period-end tidying up.

"We expect traders to remain cautious about the risk for more selling ahead of quarter-end 2011," Ms Tan said.

"They worry the USDA could estimate corn supplies were larger than expected at the start of September."

'Rainy episodes'

Furthermore, dryness remains an issue for many farmers attempting to plant winter grains.

"US hard red winter wheat planting remains delayed by dry conditions in the Great Plains. Recently emerged crops will become extremely stressed if rain is not received soon," Luke Mathews at Commonwealth Bank of Australia said.

"It's also too dry across much of Europe and the lower third of the former Soviet Union also remains too dry."

However, rainfall is forecast for the former Soviet Union, at least.

"Russian and Ukrainian producers are now busy with harvests and plantings ahead of rainy episodes forecast for tomorrow," Agritel, the consultancy, said.

Chart battle

While there was some evidence of demand, with Tunisia seeking soft wheat, durum wheat and barley, and Bangladesh after 50,000 tonnes of wheat, it was not enough to prevent futures from falling.

Chicago wheat for December delivery dropped 1.2% to $6.50 ½ a bushel, while maintaining its small, rediscovered premium over corn, which fell 1.4% to $6.43 ¼ a bushel for December.

The December corn once again faces a battle to stay over its important 200-day moving average, at $6.42 a bushel.

November soybeans fell 1.0% to $12.50 ¼ a bushel.

Deep discount

Asian markets took fright too, with

rubber

tumbling 2.7% to 310.90 yen a kilogramme in Tokyo for March delivery, a one-year low for a spot contract, despite a decision by the International Rubber consortium to allow members to curb exports during times of volatile prices.

In Kuala Lumpur,

palm oil

dropped 1.5% to 2,905 ringgit a tonne for December delivery, despite it looking a bargain compared with rival vegetable oil soyoil.

"Notably, crude palm oil is now trading at a discount of $220 a tonne to competing soyoil, compared with the historical average of $100-120 a tonne," Ker Chung Yang at Phillip Futures said.

By Agrimoney.com

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