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Morning markets: moisture talk rains on grains' parade

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The macroeconomic boost which spurred gains in Chicago in the last session had trouble repeating the trick on Wednesday, leaving agricultural commodities once again to a weak start.

Many risk assets made gains, including Asian


, which played catch-up with the gains made by Western stocks on Tuesday, backed by firm Germany business confidence data.

Shares closed up 1.5% in Tokyo, 3.1% in Seoul and 2.1% in Sydney.

Crucially for commodities, the


, in which many of them are denominated, continued to slide, easing 0.5% and helping Brent


add 0.8% to pop back above $107 a barrel as of 08:20 GMT.

'Too premature'

But Chicago crops were having none of it, as the idea of much needed rains to refresh corn and soybeans in parts of Argentina and Brazil suppressed drought fears.

"The bears are convinced that it's too premature for short-term dryness to be much of a concern," Jon Michalscheck at Benson Quinn Commodities said, although such fears might be more justified "if the current pattern would extend into the New Year for any length of time".

In fact, a front is set to bring rains to the key Argentine agricultural state of Buenos Aires today, before pushing into other areas.

"The showers and thunderstorms are clearly [going to be] heaviest over Buenos Aires and Entre Rios with lighter rains over Santa Fe and Eastern Cordoba," David Tolleris at said.

'Not nearly adequate'

That is not to say that this rain will necessarily be enough to answer all Argentine farmers' prayers.

"Given the amount of heat we have seen over the past few days and Argentina, the overall dry conditions of the past several weeks and the fact that there is going to be more hot temperatures next week, my view is that these rains coming over the next two or three days are better than nothing but not nearly adequate," Mr Tolleris added.

Temperatures in Argentina on Monday were "blisteringly hot", easily topping 40 degrees Celsius, or roughly 100 degrees Fahrenheit - bad news for pollinating corn (as US growers found earlier this year).

But the forecast was enough to keep crops on the back foot.

Chinese data


for March eased 0.1% to $6.06 ½ a bushel, despite getting some help from a South Korean order for 55,000 tonnes of the grain.


for January edged 0.5 cents lower to $11.44 a bushel. They confronted the additional pressure of Chinese data showing that of the bumper 5.69m tonnes of soybeans the country imported last month, less than 2.5m tonnes came from the US.

That represents a 35% drop year on year, and appears emblematic of Brazil's expected takeover from the US of leadership in world soybean shipments in 2011-12.

Furthermore, there are ideas of a potential sharp drop-off in Chinese imports, after China failed to sell 309,000 tonnes of the oilseed from state reserves, sparking ideas that demand from crushers, beset by weak margins, remains poor.

'Heavy snowstorms'

The weakness carried over into


too, which faces its own weather issue in the form of snow on the southern US Plains, bringing moisture much-needed here too.

"Heavy snowstorms brought as much as 15 inches of snow to key hard red winter wheat-growing areas of US Plains, ensuring the dormant crop will have enough moisture through the winter," Lynette Tan at Phillip Futures said, although there are ideas that more moisture will be needed to really do the trick.

Chicago's March lot fell 0.3% to $6.06 a bushel.

And New York


, which did not even manage to follow other farm commodities higher in the last session, remained soft, shedding 0.2% to 86.64 cents a pound for March delivery.

"Slow physical demand and thin holiday markets means the cotton market is likely to limp its way into 2012," Luke Mathews at Commonwealth Bank of Australia said.

'Heavy rains'

For gains, it was necessary to go to Chicago rough


, which added 1.0% to $14.135 a hundredweight, helped by talk in Thailand, the top exporter, that the recent floods will delay harvesting of its second crop, if not reducing it by much.

Rain talk also helped Kuala Lumpur

palm oil

add 1.1% to 3,054 ringgit a tonne for March delivery.

"Malaysia's weather office has warned of heavy rains in the key oil palm growing state of Johor that accounts for a fifth of national output," Ker Chung Yang at Phillip Futures said.

"Notably, production is already coming down partly due to seasonally weaker yields. The market expects output to fall more than 18% this month."


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