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Morning markets: grain futures stage Tenacious Tuesday

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Standard & Poor's, having like other ratings agencies been late on the last markets crisis, has been bang on time for this one.

The liquidation supercharged by the ratings agency's downgrade of America's sovereign debt rating extended into Tuesday, driving shares lower, with Japan's Nikkei index closing down 1.7% and South Korea's Kospi index 3.6% lower.

New York


was 1.6% lower at $80.05 a barrel as of 07:30 GMT (08:30 UK time).

Tight rice

But there were two sources of hope for investors of bullish aspect.

One that shares at least closed well off their lows. The Kospi, for instance, was down nearly 10% at one point. Also,


touched $75.71 a barrel earlier, a level not seen in a spot contract since September.

The second is that crops were attempting something of, if not the Turnaround Tuesday of Chicago lore, which reverses a strong trend set in the last session, at least a Tenacious one.

Sure rough


was hardly representative of Chicago grains in adding 2.6% to $16.69 a hundredweight for September. The lot has now gained getting on for 4% this month.

"Chicago rice prices have risen on a decline in yield and acreage, which has led to a record reduction in the US rice balance sheet," Abah Ofon at Standard Chartered said, noting that the US Department of Agriculture is forecasting a 23% drop in domestic output this year to a 13-year low of 187.0m hundredweight.

Rubber stretched

But many other crops were in positive territory too.

The poor performance of the non-food or feed farm commodities highlighted one reason for grains', relative, strength – the appeal of the "everyone has to eat, whatever the economic outlook" play.

It was notable that


, one major non-edible crop, was a weak performer, losing 1.5% to 97.50 cents a pound for September, if a more modest 0.3% to 97.45 cents a pound for the December lot.


, another crop more sensitive to broader economic factors, tumbled 4.2% to 354.80 yen a kilogramme in Tokyo.

Inflation factor

But investors may also be taking note of commodities' appeal during a period of high inflation, given that there is little likelihood in such fragile economic times of Western interest rates rising, even if price rises prove more than ideal.

Commodities are generally viewed as relatively inflation proof, being the kind of assets whose prices are rising. The prospect of a further round of quantitative easing, keeping cheap money flowing, would only highlight such considerations.

Then there is, on Thursday, the USDA Wasde crop report, the latest in the influential monthly series, which looks particularly important this time in revising US


yield and acreage figures.

"Grains and soybeans should find some support Tuesday/Wednesday as trade starts to square positions ahead of USDA on Thursday," Benson Quinn Commodities said.

'Concerns with corn pollination'

And this before getting to the weekly update on the conditions of US crops, which was less controversial this time in producing downgrades at least in line with market expectations, following unduly hot weather.

The proportion of corn rated in "good" or "excellent" condition fell two points to 60%, while the rating on spring wheat was slashed by four points, for a second week, to 66%. A year ago, the figure was 82%.

"The [condition of] the Illinois crop fell for the fourth consecutive week as hot and dry weather remained across the state," Paul Deane at Australia & New Zealand Bank said.

"We are hearing more about concerns with corn pollination regardless if rain was adequate or not," Mike Mawdsley at Iowa-based broker Market 1 noted.

Chicago corn for December 0.1% higher at $6.86 ½ a bushel, while September


gained 0.7% to $6.61 ¼ a bushel.

Weak oilseeds


were the weakest of the three Chicago majors, down 0.6% at $13.03 ½ a bushel, pressed by an improvement in the condition of the US crop.

The proportion rated good or excellent added one point to 61%.

That was little help to oilseed complex peer

palm oil

, which stood 0.6% lower at 2,977 ringgit a tonne in Kuala Lumpur, having touched a fresh nine-month low of 2,920 ringgit a tonne earlier.

In France, Agritel also highlighted the sensitivity of oilseeds, feedstocks for biodiesel plants, to crude prices.

In Paris trading on Monday, "the toughest decrease was posted by


, as it is correlated to oil", the consultancy said.


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