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Morning markets: risk-on lite mood helps crops to some gains

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It was a risk-on day on financial markets, but not hugely so. Risk-on lite, perhaps.

Investors were still in early deals taking cheer from the US unemployment data on Thursday, which showed new jobless claims falling by 19,000 to 366,000 last week. Economists had expected a rise, to 390,000.

There were some plus points, notably in New York, from a Federal Reserve manufacturing report too.

There was talk too of short-covering ahead of the weekend, allowing investors to relax with actual profits rather than paper ones.

It was enough to help


close up 0.3% in Tokyo, up 1.2% in Seoul and 0.5% in Sydney, and allow the


to fall a further smidgen.



regained 0.3% to climb back nearly back $104 a barrel as of 08:40 GMT.

'Holiday mode'

There was some of that feel in agricultural commodity markets too.

"Holiday mode is setting in as volume declines on a daily basis," Kim Rugel at Benson Quinn Commodities said.

Of course, that had looked the case on Wednesday too, only for eurozone fears to awaken and mete out on markets a most unfestive savaging.

But some crops managed small gains on Friday, and not without some firm ideas on fundamentals too.

'Large slow moving upper low'

Chicago soybeans for January were buoyed 0.4% to $11.15 ¾ a bushel by the mounting concerns over weather in South America, a major grower and competitor to the US on export markets.

"As the calendar flips forward, the dry pattern that is developing is starting to be taken more seriously as crop stress, if conditions continue, could impact production and boost demand for US supplies," Rugel said.

"Most of Argentina is forecast to remain dry into the end of December while Brazil is currently dry but sees better chance for rains in the extended outlook."

In meteorological speak there is "this large slow moving upper low in the atmosphere sitting over or just off the south east coast and Brazil for the next several days", said.

That will feed rains of 0.5-3 inches to a large part of central and western Brazil, including top soybean-producing state Mato Grosso.

But it will also "ensure that southeast Brazil, Paraguay, and all of Argentina see very little additional rainfall over the next seven days".

Export prospects

But Chicago


could not hold on to early gains, easing to stand unchanged at $5.79 ½ a bushel for March, despite some positive thinking on US exports.

US Wheat Associates forecast that the US would start winning tenders to Egypt, the top wheat importer, in February as Russia loses its competitive edge – indeed, it has already been blunted – and Argentina withdraws.

While Argentina has taken over price leadership, it has a limited supply of wheat for sale, even if the crop is 13.6m tonnes, as the Buenos Aires grains exchange said overnight, rather than the 13.0m tonnes previously forecast. (Or even if it is 14.5m tonnes, as the US Department of Agriculture has it.)

And even if Egyptian trade does not come onstream, the current pace of US exports, as revealed on Thursday too, are well ahead of the pace needed to meet the USDA's full 2011-12 figure downgraded to 925m bushels a week ago.

'Unwelcome rain'

Furthermore, Australia, the southern hemisphere's biggest exporter, faces more rain, threatening further quality downgrades.

"Rain forecasts over the next eight days are for the Australian eastern and South Australia wheat belts to receive 15mm-25mm of rain," Paul Deane at Australia & New Zealand Bank said.

"This is unwelcome considering the amount of grain still to be harvested," including much of that in New South Wales, the second-ranked wheat-producing state.

Cotton climbs


stood unchanged too, at $5.79 a bushel, with China's reported ability to hold out on imports still raising concerns, if doubted by many observers. repeats the comment from GrainAnalyst trader Matthew Pierce that Chinese corn purchases unearthed in US export data on Thursday "is counter to all their blathering that they have plenty of corn in stocks and a record harvest".

China was in the news for


, again, too with another report of weaker planting prospects. This time the fall in area next year in the top producing (and consuming and importing) country was pegged at 8.2%, by website

Thursday's weekly US cotton exports sales of 55.779 running bales were hardly bumper, but at least positive.

Cotton for March added 1.2% to 87.30 cents a pound.


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