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Morning markets: wheat rally stalls but corn plays catch-up

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Was that it?

A bull run needs feeding, so traders say.

And without further unexpected news of crop threats, wheat's rally stalled on Tuesday, leaving the grain in early deals in Chicago aiming for its first negative close in seven trading sessions.

Dry weather damage

In truth, there was a bullish update overnight, when the US Department of Agriculture revealed data showing a further deterioration in the condition of the US winter wheat crop.

The proportion of the overall crop rated in "good" or "excellent" health dipped by two points to 58% in the week to Sunday, in line with market expectations.

But this figure concealed a steep decline in the condition of the crop in Kansas, the top US wheat-producing state, where the fall was 9 points to 43%, as a lack of moisture further evaporated hopes of a near-record yield.

The deterioration represented "the biggest ratings margin in 4 ½ years as dry weather continued to grip the state", Lynette Tan at Phillip Futures said.

Prices, and complications

However, the run up in wheat prices of 17% last week was all about investors injecting weather premium into prices, in the US as well as Russia (and China, Australia…)

The data failed to impress the market, which sent wheat for July down 0.8% to $6.98 ¾ a bushel, as of 08:45 UK time (02:45 Chicago time).

That said, the price figure too is not all it is cracked up to be. It compares Tuesday's price with that at the close of the live session in Chicago last night, which is followed by a further 45 minutes of electronic trading under the exchange's new, extended trading hours regime.

July wheat had lost most of its ground by the end of that 45 minutes of extra time (but still before the USDA report came out) which it ended at $6.99 ¼ a bushel.

Kansas hard red winter wheat for July stood at $7.13 ½ a bushel as of early Tuesday, down 0.5% on the last session's close, but 4.25 cents higher than at the end of the 45-minutes of overtime last night.

'Drier bias'

Indeed, it is not as if investors are throwing in the towel on the bull run yet, with weather threats still abounding.

"The southern Plains are expected see a drier bias over the course of the next two weeks, while temperatures this week are expected to be very warm in many areas," Brian Henry at Benson Quinn Commodities said.

"Northern China is also offered a drier bias with crops already experiencing some stress."

In Russia, forecasts have shown "the possibility of increased rain activity" in some areas, "but the trade is going to need to see rains hitting the Volga basin" to remove weather premium.

Strong condition

The overnight USDA report contained some long-awaited news on



OK it showed all but 4% of the crop planted, ahead of the average of 81% completion by now, but that had been expected.

The real interest was in the first condition rating of the crop, which showed 77% in good or excellent condition, well ahead of the 70% the market had expected.

Still, with hot weather on its way for much of the US, there were questions over how long this would last.

'Completely dry'

Furthermore, more dry weather is on its way for China, the second-ranked corn grower and consumer (and biggest



"Temperatures warmed up over Manchuria and the North China Plains yesterday considerably,", noting temperatures of about 83 degrees Fahrenheit (28 degrees Celsius)," said.

"Once again all of central and north eastern China, from the Yangtze River all the way into Manchuria up against the Russian China border and Mongolia, was completely dry," the weather service said.

"Model data continues all of the North China Plains and Manchuria either totally dry or mostly dry through the next nine days."

Exports lagging

New crop December corn added 0.7% to $5.44 ¼ a bushel, with the old crop lot lagging, up 0.1% at $6.33 ¾ a bushel, continuing to feel pressure from soft US weekly export data on Monday.

At 23.2m bushels, cargo inspections were well behind trade forecasts besides the 35m bushels a week needed to meet USDA export forecasts for the whole 2011-12.

November soybeans gained 0.2% to $13.08 ½ a bushel, feeling some pressure from what has been flagged as a record pace of US sowings, with 76% completed as of Sunday.

Indeed, the new crop lot failed to gain over the old crop July contract, which gained 0.2% to $14.15 ¾ a bushel.

Rubber bounces

Hopes of a resolution to the latest round of the European crisis also played a part in boosting appetite for risk assets, lifting, for instance,



Shanghai and Tokyo shares gained 1.1%, with Seoul stocks soaring 1.6%. European stocks gained in early deals, with London shares up 1.0%.

And that improved sentiment gave a boost to

palm oil

, of which Europe is a particularly large importer.

Kuala Lumpur's benchmark August contract added 0.5% to 3,114 ringgit a tonne, extending a recovery from Friday's 2012 low of 3,034 ringgit a tonne.


, an industrial agri commodity more exposed than foods to macroeconomic jitters, gained 0.7% to 280.70 yen a tonne in Tokyo, also helped by Thailand's announcement of imports, to re-export, after rains cut its own production.


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