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Morning markets: plantings data overhangs crops

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Agricultural commodities got off to a mixed start to the week as fundamentals took a back seat in favour of squaring positions ahead of Tuesday's key crops report.

The signals from external markets were generally negative, with oil and shares sliding and the dollar strengthening.

Still, Chicago soybeans and wheat gained ground in electronic trading, although corn edged lower, as the prospect of the latest official report on US crop plantings dominated trade.

'Last minute squaring'

The US Department of Agriculture report, which will update statistics published in March, is expected to indicate a switch by farmers from corn, where plantings were delayed by rain, into soybeans, which can be sown later and, besides, have been enjoying buoyant prices.

"There's just last minute squaring ahead of the report," Toby Hassall, an analyst at Commodity Warrants Australia, told Reuters, the news agency.

In addition, Tuesday will provide the first-day delivery notices for Chicago's July grain and oilseed contracts, marking the start of the occasionally momentous period of the lots' closures.

July soybeans were 5 cents higher at $12.06 a bushel at 06:15 GMT, with wheat up 3.25 cents at 5.37 ½ a bushel. Corn was 1.75 cents lower at $3.82 ½ a bushel.

Tax concerns

Meanwhile, in Kuala Lumpur, palm oil lost 2% in the morning session as longstanding concerns of a rise in production mixed with new ones over India's potential imposition of an import tax.

Market rumour has is it that India may introduce a taxes on palm oil, and soyoil, in a July 6 Budget, threatening traders' hopes for strong imports if El Nino saps the country's own crops output, as many analysts expect.

"There is lots of uncertainty in the market about the Indian import taxes," a trader said.

Bursa Malaysia's benchmark September contract eased 47 ringgit to 2,272 ringgit a tonne in the morning session.

Oil slips

On external markets, crude slipped as tensions eased in Nigeria, where rebel attacks on oil facilities last week raised fears for global supplies.

New York light crude for August delivery eased $0.59 to $68.57 a barrel.

The dollar strengthened a touch, standing at $1.4025 against the euro.

On equity markets, Tokyo's Nikkei index closed 1% lower at 9,783 points.

By Mike Verdin

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