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Morning markets: improved crop health puts brakes on rebound

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Mixed was something of a theme on Tuesday in many assets, not just agricultural commodities.

Take shares. Tokyo's Nikkei index rose 1.1% to crack the 10,000 mark and record a three-month high, besides rising for a seventh successive day, its longest winning streak since 2009.

However, the rise was attributed to firmer hopes for Japanese economic growth which were lacking for many other countries, including China where Temasek, the Singapore wealth fund, depressed shares by saying it was to sell stock in Bank of China and China Construction Bank.

A downgrade by Moody's late on Tuesday to its credit assessment on Portugal, depressing the eurozone nation's rating to junk, added a further layer of uncertainty and was blamed, for instance, for easier copper prices.

'Worrisome progress'

And it required some finesse to pick the, modest, winners among farm commodities too. Even within individual crops' futures complex.

Overall, a more cautious mood was instilled in part by data overnight showing, at a headline level, small improvements to the condition of US corn, soybean and spring wheat crops, with all seeing one-point rises in the proportion rated in "good" or "excellent" health.

But analysts painted different pictures from data details.

In spring


, for instance, Brian Henry at Benson Quinn Commodities pointed to how the data's "modest shift fits with the current weather pattern, which has been relatively benign in most key growing regions as the heat received of late has been welcome in the northern plains".

He added: "Barring excessive moisture events, it appears the spring wheat crop will have another good week to develop."

And a good thing too, with Luke Mathews at Commonwealth Bank of Australia highlighting that only 13% of the crop has headed thus far, compared with an average of more than half by now.

"The progress of the US spring wheat crop remains worrisome," he said.

'Hotter-than-desired weather'



, while many investors took heart at a rise to 69% in the good-or-excellent proportion, Australia & New Zealand Bank highlighted that "growth is slow this year, though", with only 6% of the US crop silking – the start of the pollination process – half the typical figure by now.

And as for weather, while Mike Mawdsley at Market 1 stressed "more talk of hotter-than-desired weather in the two week outlook", Benson Quinn kept by its benign outlook for


too, saying that "adequate sub-soil moisture should sustain the crop".

Crops spent the early hours of the trading day dipping in and out of negative territory, with the bears holding something of the upper hand by 07:40 GMT (08:40 UK time), with no further significant crop tenders out overnight to fuel upward momentum.

In Chicago wheat the best-traded September contract stood 0.4% lower at $6.33 a bushel, while the December lot shed 0.2% to $6.79 ¼ a bushel.

Minneapolis spring wheat was still holding in positive ground, up 0.1% at $8.34 a bushel for September and 0.2% to $8.32 ½ a bushel for December.

Back in Chicago, corn was 0.2% lower at $6.24 ¼ a bushel for September and 0.3% down at $6.10 ½ a bushel for the new crop December lot.

In soybeans, the August contract shed 0.1% to $13.21 a bushel, while the November contract dipped 0.2% to $13.15 ½ a bushel.

'Extremely negative'


was among perkier crops, up 0.8% to 116.42 cents a pound, with a rise of one point in the US crop's good-or-excellent rating still taking the figure only to a weak 28%.

"This still remains extremely negative and well below last year's rating of 65%," CBA's Luke Mathews said.

And, in Kuala Lumpur,

palm oil

for September managed to stage some recovery from an eight-month low of 3.018 ringgit a tonne hit earlier. A revival to 3,041 ringgit a tonne, up 1 ringgit on the day, was attributed to higher prices of crude, improving the case for biodiesel, of which palm oil is a feedstock.


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