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Morning markets: markets move to China, India beats

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The I and C in BRICs proved the pace setters in early deals in financial markets, but agricultural commodities especially.

China's premier, Wen Jiabao, threw a bit of a curve ball by revealing that the government had set a growth target for this year of 7.5%, the first figure below 8% since 2004.

China's economy is encountering new problems. There is downward pressure on economic growth and prices remain high," Mr Wen said in a speech, which followed some downbeat comments from the agriculture minister last week over threats including high labour costs.

"Internationally, the road to global economic recovery will be tortuous, the global financial crisis is still evolving and some countries will find it hard to ease the sovereign debt crisis any time soon."

Shares ease

Is this bad news for prices, as it would first appear?

Or will it open up the prospect of easier monetary policy which would be good for Chinese demand, such a big factor in raw material markets, especially if it were accompanied by remninbi appreciation which might curb inflation and also make imports more affordable?

Many markets seemed to be taking a cautious view, with


falling in Tokyo, by 0.8%, Seoul, by 0.9%, and Shanghai, by 0.6%.

The safe haven of the


added a touch, and most agricultural commodities were lower too.

India boosts cotton

But China's fellow Bric, India, provided a boost to



New York cotton which, having closed at a 2012 low on Friday, bounced the exchange maximum at one point on Monday after India imposed a surprise ban on exports to conserve local supplies.

"Export of cotton has been prohibited till further orders," said the Directorate General of Foreign Trade in India, the second-ranked exporter of the fibre, after the US.

Cotton for May soared the full 4.0 cents allowed in New York before eased to stand 3.86 cents higher at 92.09 cents a pound at 09:00 GMT.

… but not sugar

And India in turn also helped depress


, with its farm minister, Sharad Pawar, saying that the country could export a further 1m tonnes of the sweetener in 2011-12, on top of the 2m tonnes already permitted.

New York sugar for March fell 0.2% to 24.91 cents a pound, with the sweetener also feeling pressure from ideas of better, and imminent, Brazilian output this year.

Unica, the cane industry group, forecast sugar output in Brazil's key Centre South region rising "by nearly 3m tonnes to 34m tonnes in 2012, with the crush to start in about one month", Luke Mathews at Commonwealth Bank of Australia said.

"Cane production will be between 518m-540m tonnes in 2012, up from 494m tonnes in 2011."

Can it rebound again?

Sugar's performance was more in line with that of the main Chicago crops, which suffered one of the weak starts which have been characteristic of late, only for fund buying in the live session to inspire revival.


, for instance, were helped to a 10th successive positive close on Friday by a deeper-than-expected downgrade by Informa Economics to its estimates for South America's harvest of the oilseed.

But with the weekend failing to bring further bullish news, and the prospect of a key US Department of Agriculture Wasde report ahead, the oilseed eased in early deals on Monday, falling 0.4% to $13.27 ¾ a bushel for May delivery.

'Due for a correction'

"The soybean market is extremely overbought and is due for a correction," Benson Quinn Commodities said.

"The USDA monthly report is next Friday. Looking for some sort of profit-taking to develop ahead of the report."


eased too, despite a purchase of 120,000 tonnes of the grain from the US over the weekend bySouth Korea's Nonghyup Feed.

The May lot eased 0.1% to $6.54 ¼ a bushel, failing to catch up ground against the March lot, which fell 0.1% to $6.58 ½ a bushel, holding an unusual premium over the later contract.

'Big move may be forthcoming'

Perhaps of more intrigue is the


market, which technical indicators show could be in for a break-out.

Nine-day, 20-day and 50-day moving averages are nearly identical in important May and July contracts, not just for Chicago wheat, but Kansas and Minneapolis wheat too.

"Note the averages are very close to the same price," Mike Mawdsley at broker Market 1 said.

"Typically when they all converge near the same price, a big move may be forthcoming. Up or down is the question."

'Rainfall is needed'

There is support for both sides.

For the bulls, CBA's Luke Mathews noted that "unseasonably warm weather has brought the US hard red winter wheat crop out of dormancy. However, this will accentuate the lack of moisture available in the south west Great Plains.

"Rainfall is needed. However, no major falls are forecast for a while."

And Benson Quinn noted too that "there have been concerns about the state of the Chinese wheat crop expressed by some in the trade".

Losing competitiveness?

However, the broker advised investors to "view possible production losses as limited at this point".

Indeed, it rolled out a few bearish points, noting also that the grain was "approaching overbought conditions" too. Speculators have added to the buying by closing a huge portion of their record net short position, regulatory data released late on Friday showed.

Furthermore, "the rally in US futures has come at the expense of the competitive edge once held by the US soft red winter wheat on the global market", Benson Quinn said.

"It appears the South American [export] offer is a little cheaper than the US offer.

While "there may be some question about the ability of South American ports to load wheat", the ending of the latest Argentine dockworkers strike has eased some of those.

Certainly, bears had the advantage in early deals, driving wheat for May 0.5% lower to $6.71 a bushel in Chicago.


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