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Morning markets:crop prices get steer from China import data

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Has China bought


? Or will harvest pressure come to bear on Chicago futures? Did Washington's announcement of a poultry trade battle against Beijing put Chinese buyers off?

"Not sure where this may lead, but we don't need to start a trade war with those folks," Mike Mawdsley at Market 1 said.

Corn futures, as in the last session, edged higher in opening deals only to fade, even by 07:40 GMT (08:40 UK time) as traders awaited answers.

"The market will be watching closely to see if the [US Department of Agriculture's] daily reporting system ends up releasing any US corn sales as we progress through the balance of the week," Jon Michalscheck at Benson Quinn Commodities said.

'$7-a-bushel magnet'

An early rise was in line with the broader market mood, with Tokyo


closing up 0.2%, Seoul stocks up 0.9% and Shanghai shares trading up 2.7% in late deals, amid hopes for further progress in settling the eurozone debt crisis, although with the prospect of a conclusion to the US Federal Reserve's monthly monetary policy meeting injecting a note of caution.



and Brent


were little-changed.

And for corn, there was an upward pull from the options market.

"October serial options will expire on Friday and that could be providing a magnet towards the $7.00-a-bushel level on the December contract," Mr Michalscheck said.

"The $7.00 strike price on the puts happens to have the largest amount of open interest going into today's session at 14,579 contracts and it also happens to be at the 50% level of the 108,945 total October puts that were still open as of today."

In short, all else being equal, the vote from options markets looks to be $7-a-bushel corn.

'US origin competitive'

A purchase by South Korea's largest feedmaker, Nonghyup feed, of 85,000 tonnes of corn, besides, 20,000 tonnes of soymeal, was also viewed positively.

"US origin was competitive. This was seen as a test for the competitiveness of US corn into Asian markets and indicates that the export demand destruction story from higher prices is not yet occurring," Paul Deane at Australia & New Zealand Bank said.

Furthermore, as a small insight into China's corn dynamics, customs data showed the country importing 244,500 tonnes of the grain last month, up from 172,600 tonnes in July.

Still, as Mr Mawdsley noted, "with harvest at our doorstep, it isn't the time of year to mount a big rally". The spike in supplies produced by harvests tend to press on crop prices.

There was enough uncertainty around to drag Chicago's December corn contract down 0.2% to $6.89 a bushel.

'Potentially massive wheat for corn substitution'

That put a dampener on other crops too, with Chicago


for December losing early gains to show a loss of 0.25 cents, at $6.74 ¼ a bushel, amid further mixed thoughts on prospects for sowing the southern US hard red winter wheat crop.

"The decent rains that fell in the eastern region of the hard red winter wheat area will allow for more planting progress this week, but many of the western areas will remain bone dry," Benson Quinn's Brian Henry said.

"However, the $8.62-a-bushel hard red winter wheat insurance price will entice producers to plant wheat, if at all possible."

Luke Mathews at Commonwealth Bank of Australia noted "reports of potentially massive wheat for corn substitution in China", encouraged by price differentials.

China's appetite


maintained, just, a grip on positive ground, adding 1.5 cents to $13.39 ½ a bushel for November delivery, amid hopes for Chinese demand (chicken dispute or not).

Such hopes were whetted by Tuesday's announcement of China's purchase of 120,000 tonnes of US soybeans.

That said the Chinese customs data showed a slip in the country's imports of the oilseed last month, to 4.51m tonnes, from 5.35m tonnes in July, although it was South American supplies which took the hit, with trade from the US still low ahead of harvest.

Adding some support to sentiment was the first positive close on Tuesday in seven sessions by fellow oilseed


in Canada, adding Can$7 to Can$555.60 a tonne for November delivery.

In favour, or not

In Kuala Lumpur,

palm oil

felt the heat from the China data, which showed imports slipping to 511,800 tonnes last month, from 595,000 tonnes in July (albeit remaining higher year on year), with Malaysia bearing the brunt of the slowdown.

Palm oil for December slipped 0.3% to 3,059 ringgit a tonne.

However, for


, the data showed imports rising above 207,000 tonnes, up 50,000 tonnes from July.

December cotton added 0.6% to 106.30 cents a pound in New York, for December delivery.


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