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Morning markets: grains edge higher, but key report looms

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Where to now? Agricultural commodities didn't seem quite sure in early deals on Monday, not straying too far from opening levels, ahead of what promises to be a major week.

For, besides the usual weather watching, especially prevalent this year thanks to the dire North American spring sowing season and dryness in Europe and elsewhere, and the usual weekly data flow, the US Department of Agriculture will on Thursday release its latest Wasde report too.

These reports, listing updated estimates on world crop supply and demand, are closely watched in any event. But this time especially so, given the woes affecting so many crops worldwide.

Analysts are already squabbling over whether the Wasde will, unusually, alter the estimate for US

corn

sowings, given the dire planting conditions which have slowed progress way behind historic levels, and left farmers with plenty of fields unsown with the ideal seeding window closed or closing.

Acreage question

Usually, a change would not be expected before a much-anticipated plantings briefing due on June 30.

"What adjustments the USDA may make [in the Wasde] due to the late plantings are anyone's guess," Mike Mawdsley at Market 1 said.

"Most look for a possible yield revision, but an acreage change is not expected until the June 30 acreage report."

However, Ker Chung Yang at Phillip Futures disagreed, saying the department "may adjust its corn acreage outlook as a preamble to the final acreage report on June 30".

Weather outlook

Certainly, weather over the weekend did little to improve prospects for areas of Canada and the US struggling against wet, with Saturday bringing showers into areas including Indiana and Ohio, which are particularly behind with sowings.

And more rain is forecast, with WxRisk.com noting an outlook for "huge area of above normal rainfall covering all the Midwest as well as south eastern states and into the central and upper Plains" this week.

"Embedded within that area is a large region of much above normal rainfall running from North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa into southern Wisconsin, all of Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky."

Next week, "the precipitation maps continue to show large areas of above normal rainfall covering all of the Upper Plains all of the Midwest and into North Carolina, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland and western New York state", the weather service added.

'Crucial influence'

In Europe, this weekend bought some rain too – beneficial given that crops are struggling for moisture.

However, precipitation was "uneven", analysts at Agritel, the Paris-based consultancy said, adding that it would "likely benefit spring crops, but winter crops such as

wheat

and

barley

seem already quite affected by dryness observed in the last weeks".

"Weather conditions in the Black Sea region are also to be closely monitored as a dry pattern is developing both in Russia and in Ukraine.

"The weather in June will have a crucial influence on the coming harvest and the world balance."

External signals

Signals from external markets were mixed, with shares falling 1.18% in Tokyo, a decline helped by fears for Tepco, the energy group which operates the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant.

Futures indicates Wall Street stocks opening lower later too.

Certainly, weakness in the

dollar

, which eased 0.1% against a basket of currencies, was more helpful, making dollar-denominated assets more competitive as exports.

Nonetheless commodity markets overall were mixed, with

copper

gaining a little while

oil

eased, standing just above $100 a barrel in New York, as investors awaiting a meeting later this week from producers' cartel Opec which may increase output.

Corn vs soybeans and wheat

In Chicago, wheat was again the leader, adding 0.5% to $7.77 ¼ a bushel for July and 0.2% to $8.21 a bushel for September, as of 07:20 GMT (08:20 UK time).

Canadian and US plantings of spring wheat (the type actually traded in Minneapolis) have been especially slow.

That outpaced corn, which gained 0.1% to $7.55 a bushel for July delivery and fell 0.3% to $6.84 ½ a bushel for the new crop December contract.

Indeed, traders have noted some closing of spread positions taken when focus was more on tight corn supplies.

Jon Michalscheck at Benson Quinn Commodities noted there are "those in the trade willing to exit long corn and short wheat and

soybean

positions, as the trade's bullishness turns towards the latter contracts, based on crop conditions as well as planting progress".

Soybeans themselves gained 0.1% to $14.16 ½ a bushel for July and added 0.1% to $13.98 ¼ a bushel for the new crop November contract.

'Competing influences'

Elsewhere,

cotton

rebounded 0.6% to 162.65 cents a pound, getting over Friday's disappointing US weekly export sales data. (Another negative, indicating cancelled orders.)

"Another terrible weekly US export sales result put the cotton market on the back foot on Friday. However, the cotton complex remains wary that the new-crop production concerns have not abated," Luke Mathews at Commonwealth Bank of Australia said.

"These competing influences are likely to plague the cotton market for some time yet."

In Tokyo,

rubber

for November added 0.6% to 391.90 yen a kilogramme.

Phillip Futures' Mr Ker noted that "according to latest Rubber Trade Association of Japan data, Japan's natural rubber stock stocks totalled 7,971 metric tons as of May 20. This is 1.7% lower from 8,112 tons estimated as of May 10."

Stocks in warehouses monitored by the Shanghai futures exchange (closed on Monday for a Chinese national holiday) rose a little last week to 10,566 tonnes, but remain far lower than inventories above 33,000 tonne two months ago.

Data later

Later on, the USDA will after the close of trading release its latest weekly crop progress report, the prospect of which may put a dampener on willingness to take positions.

Investors might also like to note technical positions, with Chicago wheat standing just below a barrage of moving average lines which may resist upward movement.

For the July contract, the nine-day line is at about $7.89 a bushel, the 20-day at roughly $7.80 a bushel and the 50-day at $7.91 ½ a bushel.

By Agrimoney.com

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