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Morning markets: wheat spared, by 'sell the rumour' thinking

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Fortunately for wheat bulls, the market was engaged early on Friday with a little "sell the rumour, buy the fact" thinking.

The much-watched Kansas wheat tour came in with an estimate of 403.9m bushels for production, which would be the best crop in America's top wheat-producing state since 2003.

The yield for the crop, of hard red winter wheat, was estimated at a record 49.1m bushels per acre.

This hardly looked the stuff of price rises.

'Bearish bias'

"With ample US wheat supplies going into 2012-13 and now a potentially larger hard red winter wheat crop than expected, it seems the market is more inclined to trade wheat with a bearish bias," Paul Deane at Australia & New Zealand Bank said.

As extra reasons to sell "the weather outlook is also favourable for the development of [US] winter wheat with rain and warm weather forecast for the next week".

"Further, winter crop losses in Russia are expected to be low and production forecasts remain on par with the 2011 season of over 56m tonnes."

'Selling could snowball'

Yet still, hard red winter wheat prices rose 0.4% to $6.35 ¼ a bushel in Kansas, for July delivery, as of 09:00 UK time (03:00 Chicago time)while soft red winter wheat rose 0.7% to $6.19 ½ a bushel in Chicago.

Commentators had been braced for the idea of Kansas producing a 400m-bushel crop, as reported, expectations which were reflected in Wednesday's tumble in wheat prices.

Furthermore, there was good news on the technical front for Chicago futures at least in that the CME Group, fresh from the embarrassment of having to delay 22-hour trading, having not received regulatory approval, did win a concession to the margin change rules which have been seen as fuelling price volatility this week.

The rule changes - which mean that Chicago exchange members can no long use the value of their membership as margin, and are now liable to putting up the same collateral as other non-speculative investors – have been delayed for 90 days, until August 5.

'More significant rainfall required'

One point worth flagging is also some renewed concerns for the Australian wheat crop, albeit in early days, with most of it not in the ground yet.

"Rainfall throughout Australia's grain belt over the past week was mixed," Luke Mathews at Commonwealth bank of Australia said.

"Rain totals were generally lower than expected and coverage was patchy. More significant rainfall is required to improve conditions for planting and early plant establishment."

Not that investors are overly optimistic about wheat's price prospects.

Jonathan Watters at Benson Quinn Commodities noted that "it still feels like selling could snowball if old lows are taken out in Chicago. This is a market searching for direction at the moment".

'Buying on dips'

It was helped in seeking upward direction by fellow grain


, which continued to receive from support from Thursday's huge export sales, of 3.47m tonnes old and new crop combined, largely to China.

"The lowest US corn prices in three months triggered the buying spree by both government and private importers in China," Lynette Tan at Phillip Futures in Singapore said.

"The latest wave of buying was further evidence that Beijing would step into the market on price dips to bolster its grain supply," she said, noting the continued debate over the size of last year's harvest.

"Government estimates are currently pegging China's crop harvested last autumn at more than 190m tonnes. Many private forecasters are estimating nearer to 170m tonnes."

Corn for July added 0.5% to $6.17 ¼ a bushel.

Nerves abate

That was in line with the rise in


, over which nerves steadied after China, the top importer, answered the last session's fall in Chicago prices with a small increase in its own.

The benchmark September contract on the Dalian exchange rose 0.2% to 4,513 yuan a tonne.

After all, estimates for South American crops are continuing to fall, as witnessed by Thursday's 2m-tonne downgrade by the Buenos Aires grains exchange to the Argentine harvest.

The sale in Chicago by funds of 17,000 contracts in the previous two sessions also did a bit to ease jitters over the record extent of fund and speculative net longs in the oilseed.

Soybeans for July added 0.4% to $14.78 ¾ a bushel.

'Improving export demand'

Soybeans' resilience helped Kuala Lumpur

palm oil

to recover too, although not before setting a fresh one-month low of 3,386 ringgit a tonne, for the benchmark July lot.

The contract, which has also been weakened by heavy deliveries against Chicago's expiring May lot or rival vegetable oil


, recovered to 3,386 ringgit a tonne, up 0.3% a day.

At Phillip Futures, Ker Chung Yang also noted "expectations for improving export demand and reduced stockpiles" of palm oil in Malaysia.

'Results will lift in May'

In New York, raw


extended its rebound, adding 0.2% to 20.70 cents a pound for July delivery, helped by Thursday's Unica data showing a slow start to the cane crushing season in Brazil's key Centre South region.

But there is still plenty of bearish sentiment around on the sweetener, which stands only 0.31 cents from hitting a 20-month low.

CBA's Luke Mathews said that Centre South "production results will lift in May".

Phillip Futures' Lynette Tan said: "The plentiful availability of Indian sugars, coupled with the imminent start of the harvest in the centre-south of top producer Brazil and ample supplies from origins such as Thailand and Pakistan, will likely keep a lid on sugar prices."


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