IntereIf anyone doubted the power of Brazil to influence agricultural markets, Monday gave them food for thought.
Brazil wasn’t the only factor behind a jump in ag commodity prices on Tuesday.
But it was a big one, after Aecio Neves, viewed as a business-friendly candidate, put in a surprisingly strong showing in the first round of presidential elections, raising the potential of a serious challenge to the reign of Dilma Rousseff, who many observers blame for economic stagnation.
The real, which hit six-year lows against the dollar last week, rebounded more than 3%, improving the value, in dollar terms, of assets in which Brazil is a major force.
These include coffee and sugar, of which it is the top producer and exporter.
Arabica coffee – handed the extra boost of a dry Brazilian forecast, raising the already-strong prospects for a poor crop next year too – soared 6.3% to close at 220.80 cents a pound in New York for December delivery, the highest close for a spot contract since January 2012.
London-traded robusta coffee, of which Brazil ranks behind Vietnam in output, rose 4.1% to $2,165 a tonne for November, a five-month high for a spot contract.
Meanwhile, with the real contributing to a decline against the dollar – which also sank against the likes of the euro and sterling, shedding 0.8% against a basket of currencies – dollar-denominated grain prices got a boost from enhanced export competitiveness.
And to enhance the theme of an enhanced US export performance, data for last week showed that the country may have already stepped up a gear.
US exports, as measured by cargo inspections, hit 650,560 tonnes for wheat, up nearly 45,000 tonnes week on week, and soared more than 275,000 tonnes to 974,341 tonnes for soybeans,
For corn, weekly exports, at 883,548 tonnes, were up more than 280,000 tonnes week on week.
And as an extra boost, the US Department of Agriculture, through its daily alerts system, unveiled the export sale of 210,000 tonnes of corn to an “unknown destination”.
Furthermore, as to meeting demand, the huge US corn and soybean harvests in the field are proving slower than expected to make it into the barn, with wet weather undermining farmers’ progress.
And the Corn Belt forecast is “slightly wetter Tuesday and Wednesday”, MDA said, denting hopes of a big pick-up in harvesting this week.
In fact, “showers should linger across south eastern [Midwest] areas today and Tuesday, then build across central and southern areas Thursday and Friday,” the weather service said.
Broker CHS Hedging said: “Warmer and dryer weather is supposedly on the horizon, but that is what the weather forecasters said last week.”
And the frosts over the weekend in the north western Midwest may have proven a little more severe than some earlier had stated.
“A hard freeze was noted in the Dakotas,” MDA said, noting that frosts are due to return to the north western Midwest later this week and over the weekend.
Benson Quinn Commodities said: “The northern Plains experienced a killing frost that will help dry down the soybean crop but may have damaged corn due to slow rate of maturity.”
The delayed maturity of crops, a downside of a cool summer that favoured pollination, besides wet weather are seen as factors in slowing the harvest to an estimated 20% complete, compared with an average of more than 30% by now, and soybeans to 20-23%, compared with a typical 40%.
The estimates came ahead of USDA weekly crop progress data expected later.
‘Not as aggressive’
As an extra setback to prices, there is talk that a USDA Wasde report later this week will not prove as generous as many investors have expected in terms of yield forecasts.
Benson Quinn Commodities noted “concern the USDA may not be as aggressive with higher yield estimates than the trade is currently”.
And there are some worries growing over dryness in Brazil, in areas as well as the coffee state of Minas Gerais, and as soybean sowings ramp up.
Mato Grosso, Brazil’s top soybean growing state, is expected to see below normal or much below normal rains over the next 20 days, according to WxRisk.com, with dryness prevalent in Bahia, Goias and Sao Paulo states too.
All this came against a background of relatively bearish positioning by hedge funds in many agricultural commodities, including soybeans and wheat, encouraging covering on short positions which have until late been highly profitable bets.
And chart signals improved too, as contracts broke back above moving averages, further enhancing the appeal of short-covering by investors which follow technical signals.
Soybeans for November, for instance, soared 3.3% to close at $9.42 ¼ a bushel, ending above their 10-day moving average for the first time in nearly two months.
Corn for December jumped 2.9% to $3.32 ½ a bushel, ending above its 10-day and 20-day moving averages for the first time since August.
Wheat lagged a bit, in adding 1.2% to $4.91 ½ a bushel in Chicago for December delivery, although busting above its 20-day moving average for the first time since August.
But then the US weekly exports were not so outstanding as for the row crops, and Russian wheat is getting closer into contention again after a third successive week of falling prices at port.
In shallow-water ports, prices fell $6 at $209 per tonne last week, according to SovEcon, although values in deep-water ports were more resolute, at $235 per tonne for wheat with 12.5% protein, a price from $2 week on week.
Paris wheat for November gained 1.1% to E160.25 a tonne, closing back above E160 for the first time in three weeks.
London feed wheat, which as a feed grain is taking many cues from corn, jumped 1.8% to £113.50 a tonne for November, the best finish for nearly a month.
Also in Europe, Paris rapeseed for November jumped 1.9% to E331.25 a tonne, not farm from regaining its 100-day moving average for the first time since May.
Futures were boosted by a further warning, this time from Strategie Grains, over EU rapeseed area for the 2015 harvest, after a drop in seedings and a threat from insect damage.
In Winnipeg, canola for November gained 2.4% to Can$413.30 a tonne, within an ace of regaining its 40-day moving average for the first time since May.