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Wheat futures tumble to 3-week low as selloff continues

CommoditiesMar 22, 2012 07:07AM ET
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Investing.com - Wheat futures came under pressure for the fourth consecutive day on Thursday, dropping to the lowest level in three-weeks amid favorable weather conditions in the U.S. Great Plains region, while some technical selling by large institutional investors further weighed.

On the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, wheat futures for May delivery traded at USD6.3212 a bushel during European morning trade, dropping 0.64%.

It earlier fell by as much as 0.72% to trade at USD6.3188 a bushel, the lowest since February 27.

Agricultural meteorologists continued to point to wet weather conditions across most parts of the U.S. Great Plains region, improving prospects for winter wheat crops that recently emerged from dormancy.

The U.S. National Weather Service said Wednesday that parts of Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas got 0.5 inch to and 4 inches (10 centimeters) of rain in the past seven days, more than double the normal amount.

The rain helped improve crop conditions. In Kansas, the top US wheat-growing state, the U.S. Department of Agriculture rated the winter crop at 53% in "good" or "excellent" health as of last week, far better than the 27% last year.  

In Texas, parts of which saw rains of up to two inches last week, the rating improved to 34% good or excellent, from 33% a week ago.

Meanwhile, continued market talk of hedge funds and large institutional investors liquidating long positions amid bearish chart signals further added to the selling pressure.

Wheat prices have lost nearly 6.5% since the start of the week, including a 3% plunge on Monday after Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said that the nation will not limit grain exports this year.

Russia is a major wheat exporter and competes with the U.S. for business on the global market. An upbeat Russian grain export outlook could weigh on demand for U.S. supplies, which is the world’s third largest wheat producer and biggest exporter.

Agricultural commodities were also weighed by outside developments. The U.S. dollar strengthened broadly as investors sought safety amid growing concerns over the global economy.

Market sentiment was hit following the release of a preliminary estimate of HSBC’s China manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index, which fell to a four-month low and remained in contractionary territory for the fifth consecutive month.

Further weighing on appetite for riskier assets, German manufacturing activity dropped to a four-month low in March, while manufacturing in France also contracted.

A separate report showed that manufacturing activity in the euro zone slumped unexpectedly in March, remaining in contraction territory for the eighth consecutive month.

The dollar index, which tracks the performance of the greenback against a basket of six other major currencies, was up 0.33% to trade at 80.07, erasing earlier losses of as much as 0.2%.

A stronger dollar reduces the appeal of U.S. crops to overseas buyers and makes commodities less attractive as an alternative investment.

Elsewhere on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, corn for May delivery fell 0.85% to trade at USD6.3713 a bushel, while soybeans for May delivery traded at USD13.4663 a bushel, shedding 0.55%.

Wheat futures tumble to 3-week low as selloff continues

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