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Morning markets: palm outshines dreary US crops

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Chicago crops continued to feel a little pressure on Wednesday, as a holiday mood continued to set in, leaving Kuala Lumpur to take the honours with a 2% rise.

Only soybeans among Chicago's big three was higher at 07:30 GMT, lifted by a small gain for their peers on China's Dalian exchange.

That matters when China is the biggest importer of US soybeans, and Dalian prices give an indication of just how tight the local market is, and some indication of demand pressures.

January soybeans were 3 cents higher at $10.58 a bushel in Chicago.

'Holiday trading mode'

But the grains were a touch lower, with little evidence as of yet of a return of the fund anticipation trade – buying ahead of an expected wall of cash from funds at the start of next month and 2010.

"Market seems to be heading into holiday trading mode with this the last full trading week of the year and trading desks thin," Kim Rugel, at Benson Quinn Commodities, said.

It is possible the fund theme may return in US dealing hours, with traders still noting a background presence.

But it would "take a weather concern in Brazil and/or Argentina to build more substantial legs under this market and break it out above recent highs", Rugel said, speaking of soybeans, although Brazil may come to the aid of wheat too.

Concerns over Brazil's wheat harvest, which has been dogged by heavy rain, could put new life into America's exports, given that Argentine farmers will have little to sell, deterred from the grain by dry weather, and the better money to be made in soybeans.

Nonetheless, wheat stood 2.25 cents lower at $5.34 ½ a bushel for March, with corn for the same month down 1.75 cents at $4.05 ¾ a bushel.

China buying ahead?

For excitement, investors needed to travel to Kuala Lumpur, where benchmark March palm oil touched 2,596 ringgit a tonne, up 2.6% to within an ace of its six-month high, before retreating to 2,583 ringgit a tonne.

Again, China was viewed as an influence, with prices of soyoil, palm oil's major rival, adding 1.2% on the Dalian exchange.

China has been reported as so concerned over the tight soyoil market that it is considering releasing some of its state reserves.

Nonetheless, investors also believe that both China and India, big palm oil buyers, may be poised for big imports early next year, and have largely discounted Tuesday's weak export data.


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