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Morning markets: grain price rally pauses, awaiting US data

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What goes up must come down.

A little, anyway. Agricultural commodities did not suffer a heavy sell-off in Asian trading hours. But a further rally had run into the sand by 07:15 GMT (08:15 UK time) as investors awaiting further market-moving news.

This may come through changed weather outlooks, although it is difficult to see how they could get much worse in terms of forecasting rain to hamper sowings of US spring crops, and excessive dryness for the southern Plains, China, Europe and the former Soviet Union.

(That said, the outlook looks drier for France and Germany, Europe's top two wheat producers, on the 11-to-15 day timescale.

WxRisk.com said that weather modelling shows "significant rains moving into Spain and southern France with some rain getting into central and eastern France.

"But Germany stays fairly dry as does all of eastern Europe into western Russia and the Ukraine. Not 100% dry but below normal rainfall.")

Data later

However, also on the agenda later are the weekly US export sales data,

Ker Chung Yang at Phillip Futures said that, for

soybeans

at least, "the focus of markets will hinge" on the data, expected to show some 200,000-400,000 tonnes for the oilseed, 2010-11 and 2011-12 crop years combined.

"If the data surprised on the downside, we expect the prices may go softer." And soybean export sales data have certainly disappointed of late, amounting to less than 85,000 tonnes, old crop and new combined, over the previous fortnight.

And investors booked a few profits in grains too, just in case

corn's

data falls below the 800,000-1.0m tonnes forecast, double those the previous week, and

wheat's

fail to hit 450,000-750,000 tonnes.

Chart factors

Chicago wheat for July got to $8.28 a bushel in early deals, taking its gains from Monday's low to just short of $1, before vertigo set in and the lot fell back to $8.12 ¼ a bushel, down 0.6% on the day.

Technically too wheat faces a bit of a challenge in that the grain's 100-day moving average, that last of the big scalps it has yet to retake, stands near $8.23, and may take a bit of effort to overcome fully.

The same is true of soybeans, which bust through a series of moving averages in the last session but not the 100-day, at $13.84 a bushel, and which remained beyond the oilseed's reach for now.

The July contract stood 0.5% lower at $13.72 a bushel.

Corn did better, adding 0.4% to $7.53 ½ a bushel for July. But even here, the December lot suffered, losing 0.3% to $6.70 ½ a bushel.

'Yields fall each day'

Other factors which could swing markets are changes in crop forecasts, after the rash on Wednesday which saw estimates for French and German crops downgraded.

Agritel, which came in with a low 31.7m-tonne estimate for the French wheat crop, added on Thursday that "growers see how their yields decrease each day, while livestock farmers suffer from lack of fodder and high feed prices".

In the US, analysts are continuing to lift estimates for the amount of sowings which will not go into the ground because of the poor weather.

Acreage adjustments

Growers see how their yields decrease each day, while livestock farmers suffer from lack of fodder and high feed prices.

Linn Group forecast US corn acres at 89.5m acres, down more than 2.6m acres from America's official forecast, with losses particularly high in Missouri, North Dakota and Ohio, which had had such a poor start. At the start of the week, traders were talking losses of more like 1m acres.

"If the reduction in acres does occur [the US balance sheet] would indicate that sizeable rationing would need to take place in both old as well as new crop," Jon Michalscheck at Benson Quinn Commodities said.

Linn's estimate for soybean sowings was 75.1m acres, implying a loss of 1.5m acres from US Department of Agriculture hopes.

Drought, flooding...

Outside Chicago,

cotton

paused for breath too, after its recovery this week, also on prospects for the crop in the US, the top exporter.

Indeed, "new crop production concerns remain the main supportive influence for cotton prices",Luke Mathews at Commonwealth Bank of Australia said.

"The south west US states continue to remain in drought, while the Mississippi delta continues to deal with severe flooding.

"The market can ill afford any significant production losses considering old-crop supplies in the US are at record tight levels."

Still, the new crop December lot eased 0.9% to 121.93 cents a pound, with the old crop July contract flat at 159.86 cents a pound.

'Softer demand'

And in Tokyo, while rubber rose 1.0% to 382.00 yen a kilogramme for October delivery, Mr Ker questioned how long the rally might last.

"Going forth, we expect rubber futures to soften on higher supplies available and expectation of softer demand from China," he said.

"While rubber availability may be limited in some areas, the market is expecting higher supplies as major producers emerge from low-production season."

Furthermore, the return of Japan into recession, after data showing economic 0.9% contraction in the January-to-March period after a 0.3% dip the quarter before, might raise questions over demand too.

By Agrimoney.com

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