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Morning markets: weaker dollar lifts cloud over crop prices

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Did the weekend bring a change for agricultural commodities, in climate terms?

In terms of the investment climate, it did, with the


returning to its weakening trend, down 0.4% against a basket of currencies as of 07:20 GMT (07:20 UK time), making dollar-denominated assets more affordable as imports.

Key was the revival in the euro, after further Greek denials that the debt-laden country was seeking to ditch the currency.

Many commodities set off on a better footing, with New York


adding 2.0% to $99.15 a barrel, recovering, while


regained more than 1% in London and Shanghai.


, which gained prominence for the extent of its declines last week, stood 3% higher.

'Damage now irreversible'

In terms of the crop-growing climate, the weekend, in the US, provided little in the way of rain for parched hard red winter wheat crops, and a little for the Midwest areas where it is not needed, given sowings progress.

"Most precipitation [for Friday/Saturday] was under 0.25 of an inch, but when you are waterlogged and super-saturated any additional rainfall is a problem," said.

In Europe, the major agricultural parts of the UK (including the western England area where is based) got its first decent rain in weeks, a help when a lack of rain was beginning to tell.

And it still is in some areas of continental Europe, Agritel said. "The situation is still a source of concern on northern Europe, more specifically in northern France, northern Germany and Poland," theParis-based consultancy said.

"Damage is now irreversible on some fields. Spring malting barley is the most damaged crop at this time, but wheat is also at threat."

And no relief looks on its way. Australia & New Zealand Bank quoted weather forecasts that for France and Germany, the EU's top wheat producers (ahead of the UK), "adequate rainfall is forecast for southern areas over the next week, but little relief is likely in northern regions".

Price revivals

Factor both these issues into commodity markets, and it made for a brighter start, even for


, which missed out on the limited rebound in the last session.

July corn gained 0.7% to $6.90 ¾ a bushel in Chicago, with the new crop December lot adding 0.6% to $6.44 ¼ a bushel.


gained 0.4% to $13.31 ½ a bushel, getting a lift from the setbacks that wet conditions are causing Canada's canola, as well as spring wheat, farmers.

"Excessive rainfalls delay plantings. In the Alberta province, only 1% of spring crops have been planted, while 15% are planted by this date on average," Agritel said.

'Very nervous'

As for


itself, the grain jumped 1.7% to $7.72 a bushel for July delivery in Chicago, and 1.7% to $8.89 a bushel in Kansas.

The Minneapolis July spring wheat contract regained 1.9% to $9.21 ¼ a bushel.


was the standard bearer for crop bears, falling 0.4% to 145.00 cents a pound for July, now the spot contract, and indeed at the lowest for a near-term lot since mid-January.

"The cotton market remains very nervous after the savage April clean-out. For the month, prices slumped around 20%," Luke Mathews at Commonwealth Bank of Australia said.

'Susceptible to further selling'

But could a fresh round of selling by speculators upset the apple cart? They certainly got shot of a stack of exposure in the week to last Tuesday, regulatory data show, cutting net long positions in US agricultural commodities by some 10%.

This was to benefit of trade buyers.

"Commercials were [in corn] seen pricing nearly five week's worth of usage as the absorbed the bulk of the nearly 37,000 contracts the large fund was seen liquidating as of Tuesday's close," Jon Michalscheck at Benson Quinn Commodities said.

And funds are believed to have sold some 35,000-40,000 lots since.

Even so, "the hefty weight of speculative long positions in the corn market continues to leave that market susceptible to further selling pressure", Mr Mathews said.

However, he added: "We think the tight old-crop corn supply situation may limit the downside potential."

Data later

As for data ahead, the key statistics for this week come later on. These include the latest US crop progress data, due today after the close of trading.

For corn, "we would expect that planting progress will be in the 25% range, give or take a couple of percentage points", Mr Michalscheck said.

"Kansas, Nebraksa, and Iowa should show making the best progress, with the upper Midwest and points east still lagging the furthest behind.

"The key as we go forward will be how many acres are we lagging behind in the key states of Nebraksa, Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, and Indiana as that should move the national average yield significantly."

Also this week the US Department of Agriculture will release its latest monthly Wasde report on world crop supply and demand, including first estimates for 2011-12.

In broader economic terms, China will on Wednesday unveil inflation data, viewed as offering an insight into the likelihood of further measures to curb economic growth, and demand for raw materials with it.


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