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Morning markets: grain prices stabilise - but for how long?

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A big day has arrived. Not just, of course, the UK's royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.

For agricultural commodity watchers, it is first delivery day against May futures, besides being calendar month end, typically seen as a time of position closing as funds undertake a spot of housekeeping.

But have the funds got their selling in early? Note the limit-down close to Chicago corn to the last session, with big losses in wheat, oats and the rest of the gang too, as the US weather outlook turned better for growers.

"Could be a lower start, but fund selling may run its course early," was how Benson Quinn Commodities' Kim Rugel foresaw the day panning out.

"And if weather forecast changes – we could see a better close with crops still a long way from being in the bins."

'It is unnerving'

As of 07:40 GMT (08:40 UK time), crops were, by and large, running to this script, with




, at least, recovering from early losses back into positive ground.

And, after all, there are plenty of ideas that this week's sell-off has been overdone.

Mike Mawdsley at Market 1 said: "We don't see this as the beginning of a downtrend in the grains. But it is unnerving nonetheless."

At Phillip Futures, Ker Chung Yang said: "The magnitude of the market's decline was surprising," against a backdrop of a softer dollar and rising oil prices.

"Those factors are normally seen as supportive for grain prices because ethanol is made from corn and a weak dollar makes US commodities more attractive to foreign buyers."

And, indeed, the


eased further on Friday, if remaining above the three-year low hit in the last session, although oil prices weakened too.

Prices revive

Mr Ker added: "US planting is quite a bit average, and weather will need to improve over a longer timeline for some parts of the region to catch-up," even if the western Corn Belt dries up next week, as expected.

And many investors seemed to be getting on something of the same wavelength, adding 0.3% back on to corn's price for July delivery to take it to $7.31 ¼ a bushel.

The new crop December lot regained 0.2% to $6.38 ¾ a bushel.

Soybeans, which have been something of a follower to the grains in recent market moves, recovered too, adding 0.2% for July to $13.56 ¾ a bushel, and 0.3% to $13.42 for the new-crop November lot.

'Water stress persists'


, however, refused to cheer up, even though there are doubts as to how much help rain received by and forecast for dry European and US winter wheat crops will really prove.

"It is too early to say that these heterogeneous rainfalls will really have a positive impact," Agritel, the Paris-based consultancy, said.

"Precipitation is beneficial in Germany, but water stress persists in northern France and Benelux." (That being the grouping of Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg.)

"However, rainfalls are probably too late in Kansas to notably improve the wheat crop rating."

Raings impact

Benson Quinn said: "While rain may not dramatically improve [US] conditions, it may hold ratings steady after several weeks of declines.

"The worst parts of Texas and Oklahoma are unlikely to really see a significant improvement."

Chicago wheat for July slid 4 cents to $7.74 a bushel, with its Kansas peer easing 0.25 cents to $8.79 ¾ a bushel.

Minneapolis spring wheat for July lost 2.25 cents to $9.21 ½ a bushel, although the prospect of more wet weather, and sowing delays, for northern US and Canadian farmers helped the new crop September lot add 1.25 cents to reach parity at $9.21 ½ a bushel.

Stability on its way?

In New York, July


lost 1.1% to 150.32 cents a pound "continuing a slide fed by concerns that demand for the fibre is tapering off", as Mr Ker said, although the contract remained well above three-month lows hit on Thursday.

"Losses were not as sharp as in previous sessions, a sign the market is on the way to finding a middle-ground," he added.

Even Chinese commodity futures showed signs of stabilising, falling 1.0%, relatively modest by recent standards, to 26,280 yuan a tonne for the Zhengzhou's benchmark September lot.

Data later

As for later, markets have deliveries against May contracts to deal with, expected to come in at 0-500 lots for corn, and come in low against soybeans too.

Updated weather forecasts, of course, will prove crucial too.


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