Soybeans took a late lead on a mixed day for agricultural commodities, helped by speculative buying and news that China had bought 110,000 tonnes of US beans.
Chicago soybeans for May delivery stood 19 cents higher at $10.08 ½ a bushel in afternoon trade (18:30 British summer time). However, buying activity was focused on the May and July contracts. Prices for this year's harvest showed far smaller gains, with the July 2010 contract up a mere 1.5 cents at $9.34 a bushel.
Positive ripples from soybeans spread a little way into other markets. May corn regained $4.00 a bushel after 3.75 cent rise.
However, wheat lost early gains, as lingering concerns over the hard red winter crop were countered by talk that fields of spring wheat were drying out after flooding last month. May wheat was 2.25 cents lower at $5.37 ½ a bushel in Chicago and off 2.25 cents at $5.87 ¾ a bushel in Kansas, the home of hard red winter trading.
Wheat closed lower in Europe too, down £0.75 at £108.50 a tonne in London and E2.50 lower at E136.25 a tonne in Paris, where official data pointed to a large inventories. While official estimates of wheat stocks at the end of this season were cut by 96,000 tonnes to 3.9m tonnes, the estimate remained a four-year high.
Beyond cereals, cocoa resumed its downward path, with the benchmark July contract closing down 4.3% at $2,561 a tonne in New York, and down 3.2% at £1,797 a tonne in London, amid growing concerns of falling demand. Fourteen cocoa grinders in Indonesia are reported to have halted operations because of the slowdown.
Sugar futures were little changed in either London or New York despite fears that India, the world's biggest sugar consumer, looked unlikely to relax import duties before its forthcoming elections, as some traders had hoped.
Earlier, palm oil prices lost their battle to hold on to recent gains, losing 15 ringgit to close at 2,165 ringgit a tonne on the Bursa Malaysia.
The drop reflected concerns that Friday's Malaysian stocks data will do little further to support the price.
"It's about time now to take a profit," a Kuala Lumpur-based trader told Reuters. "I expect further correction prior to stocks data as any bullish number is already in the price."
However, the weak close came before strong US petrol consumption figures prompted a revival in oil prices after a weak start. Brent crude stood up 3.6% at $53.08 a barrel, with US light crude up 1.4% at $50.58 a barrel.