The New Citroen Burningo

The French government says vandals burned 30 percent more cars on New Year's Eve this year than during the holiday last year.

Burning cars on the last day of the year has become a tradition in rundown French suburbs.

The Interior Ministry said 1,147 cars were burned overnight, compared with 878 last year. It said the police had arrested 288 people during the night, up from 259 last year.

I hate those cheese-eating surrender monkeys. Why do all Frenchmen smell? So blind people can hate them more easily.

Melamine Bhuna Anyone?

Scientists and consumer groups are raising concerns that fish from China might also be contaminated with melamine.

China is the world's largest producer of farm-raised seafood, exporting billions of dollars worth of shrimp, catfish, tilapia, salmon and other fish.

Industry experts say that melamine has been routinely added into fish and animal feed to artificially boost protein readings.

And new research suggests that, unlike in cows and pigs, the edible flesh in fish that have been fed melamine contains residue of the nitrogen-rich substance.

Laboratory studies in the U.S. of melamine-fed catfish, trout, tilapia and salmon by the FDA's Animal Drugs Research Center found that fish tissues had melamine concentrations of up to 200 parts per million.

That's 80 times the maximum "tolerable" amount set by the FDA for safe consumption.

Tilapia is widely used in Chinese and Indian restaurants in the UK.

Brazilian Crop Weather

Brazilian weather watchers report mostly dry conditions across the holiday period except for a few light showers across Rio Grande do Sul. Temperatures ranging 75-94F.

Dry conditions are forecast to continue across much of the country's corn belt, with just a few showers, locally heavier across Parana, with temperatures around normal for the time of year.

The forecast calls for mostly dry conditions Saturday through Tuesday.

The corn harvest is already nearly complete across northeastern Brazil, with quality generally lower on persistent dryness.

Overnight Developments

There is no eCBOT market today, so we will have to wait until 3.30pm to see which way the market is going to go on the first trading day of 2009.

Crude oil is trading however, and after closing 14% higher on New Year's Eve, is around 8% lower on ideas that that particular rally was overdone.

News emerges today that Russian gas supplier Gazprom is to re-open talks with Ukraine over natural gas supplies, after cutting off supplies yesterday morning.

Crude is $3.31 lower at $41.29/barrel.

Whilst there are clear signs that US refineries are cutting back production, falling consumption is still seeing stocks building. OPEC's recently announced cuts will eventually start to filter through into the supply chain come the spring, analysts reckon.

The situation in the Middle East is keeping traders nervous, after Nizar Rayan, a senior Hamas leader, has been killed in an Israeli airstrike on Gaza. Most analysts however seem to think that it is unlikely to have any significant threat to world supplies.

In the grains sector South American weather appears to be the main factor at the moment, with the Argy wheat crop already decimated by drought, concerns are now switching to the possible effect on the Brazilian and Argy corn and soybean crops.

Mortgage approvals in the UK edged lower to 27K in November, the lowest level since 1991, from a revised down of 31K in previous month as falling home values paired with the ongoing turmoil in the credit market curbed demands for home investments.

The pound is up to the dizzy heights of 1.0430 against the euro, although it did get above 10.06 on New year's Eve. Against the dollar we languish around $1.4530 as the greenback is buoyed by falling crude oil.

JD Wetherspoon has cut the price of a pint of beer to less than £1 and lowered the cost of other drinks and meals in a bid to attract customers as the pub industry faces one of its toughest years. The chain will sell pints of Greene King IPA and bottles of San Miguel for 99p.

That's going to encourage even more piss-stained tramps, vagabonds and ne'er-do-wells into the place. I might pop down at lunchtime.

Russia Shuts Off Gas Supplies to Ukraine

Russia has stopped all gas supplies to Ukraine after the collapse of talks to end a row over unpaid bills and prices.

Russia's gas giant Gazprom said it turned off the taps at 0700 GMT, when its contract to supply Ukraine ended.

Ukraine insists it has paid off its debts to Gazprom, but Russia contests this. The two countries have also failed to agree on a price for 2009.

A similar row between Gazprom and Ukraine at the beginning of 2006 led to gas shortages in several EU countries.

Crude Oil Posts Large Gain On Last Day Of 2008

Crude oil futures closed the last day of trading in 2008 posting 14% gains as the bulls emerged from their hideouts. Still, futures are down 54 percent this year, the first annual decline since 2001, and down around 70% from the July all-time high of $147.27/barrel.

Whilst Energy Dept data shows that US gasoline & distillate inventories rose in the week to 26 Dec, the increases were much lower than anticipated.

US refineries operated at 82.5 percent of capacity last week, down 2.2 percentage points from the week before and the lowest since the period ended Oct. 10 when the Gulf Coast was recovering from hurricanes Gustav and Ike.

Gasoline stockpiles increased by 800,000 barrels, less than forecasts for a 1.5-1.7 million barrel build, while distillates rose by 700,000 barrels, below expectations for a 1.1-1.5 million barrel increase.

The news is of particular interest as refiners often shut units for maintenance in late January and February as heating-oil demand falls and before gasoline use rises. Whilst the data does confirm that US consumers are continuing to use less, a heavy shutdown period in the new year could soon turn a surplus into a deficit, analysts said.

A dispute between Russia and Ukraine over gas supplies may see Ukraine forced to turn to Europe for supplies in the new year. Russia's gas export monopoly Gazprom said on Wednesday that talks with Ukraine over gas prices for 2009 have failed, making a cut-off of gas to Ukraine on January1 unavoidable.

Signs that OPEC members are finally biting the bullet and adhering to quota cuts, and the ongoing tensions in the Middle East added to the nervous tone.

To keep prices at the recent recent extreme lows, the world needs to be a quiet place both economically and geopolitically.

CBOT Closing Comments (31st Dec)


March corn futures closed double-digits higher in today's session. July corn futures also traded higher. These gains in corn were in part due to a late rally in grains and crude oil futures. Crude oil futures during the afternoon trading session soared to over $4 in gains. A large block of market-on-close & end of year orders sent corn futures (which traded lower most of the day), to a sharply higher close. This afternoon the USDA issued a report of its 5-year revisions to US production and ending stocks estimates. As expected the USDA report did not contain any major market-shaking information. One revision to note was a reduction of 36 million bushels of corn to the 2007 production, from 13.073 billion to 13.037 billion. Due to the holidays, US export sales of corn and other grains for last week will not be released until this Friday. March corn closed at $4.07, up 10 3/4 cents; July corn closed at $4.28, up 11 cents.


January soy futures complex ended higher after trading mixed most of today's session. An afternoon rally in crude oil contributed to a bean oil rally and pushed the soy complex further into bull territory. Most of the soybean rally was provided by a large block of market-on-close & end-of-year orders. Scattered showers are forecasted in southern Brazil later this week, but not expected to alleviate current dry conditions there. Dry weather conditions continue in Argentina. This afternoon the 5-year revision report by the USDA did not contain any significant changes to soybean production or ending stocks. January soybean ended at $9.72 1/4, up 26 1/2 cents; January soy meal ended at $300.50, up $2.50; January soy oil at $33.29, up $1.18.


March wheat futures in Chicago, Kansas City, and Minneapolis settled higher this trading session. A late, large block of market-on-close & end-of-year orders provided enough bullish support to rally wheat. This afternoon rally erased the lows wheat were trading during most of the morning, to have wheat futures to end in positive territory. Bullish spillover from the equities market also contributed to wheat's rally. Iraq bought wheat from 3 other countries, but not from the higher priced US. CBOT March wheat settled at $6.10 3/4, up 6 cents; KCBT March wheat settled at $6.30, up 8 1/4 cents; MGEX March wheat settled at $6.30, up 8 1/4 cents.


Overnight Markets

eCBOT is lower across the board as 2008 draws to a close, with corn, soybeans and wheat all heading for their first annual declines for four years.

Despite hitting record highs earlier in the year, corn seems set to close around 14-15% lower than where we left 2007, with soybeans set to post declines of around 22% and wheat, which peaked earlier, down by around a third.

Traders will be looking to square up positions, if they haven't done so already in a shortened session this afternoon ahead of tomorrows holiday. Friday will likely also be a non-event, with the real fun and games starting again on Monday 5th January 2009.

It will be interesting to see which way the market goes next Monday, I think that it's highly likely to do something dramatic. And my money is already on sharply higher.

Dryness in South America is now becoming a very serious problem (see "Is It Already Too Late For Brazil?" and "Argy Wheat Crop 'Dismal'" posted recently on Nogger's Blog).

Wheat stocks have been replenished with a bumper crop in 2008, but boy did they need to be. Projected 2008/09 world ending stocks however are still well below the previous 10-year average of 174.8 million tons.

Reduced plantings and fewer inputs due to price and credit considerations are likely to see lower production in Europe, Russia, China and the US in 2009. That doesn't give us much room for any serious weather problems.

These issues may, and in my opinion should, start to concentrate traders' minds once we are into 2009.

Best wishes for healthy & prosperous New Year.


Is It Already Too Late For Brazil?

Parana, Brazil's #2 soybean growing state and Rio Grande do Sul, the country's #3 growing state have received only a quarter of last season's rainfall between Nov 1st and Dec 29th, local weather service Somar reports.

Later planted soybeans may still have time to recover, if rains arrive soon, but for corn the party could already be over, some analysts are saying.

In these areas soybean planting is still being completed, for corn however time is just about up.

Parana's state's agricultural secretariat says that corn production in the region could drop by 15-20% from last season. In neighbouring RGDS agronomists agree with him.

Parana produced 11.8mmt of soybeans in 2007-08, whilst RGDS produced 7.7mmt according to Conab. Parana also produced 9.7mmt of corn in the first harvest in 2007-08, whilst RGDS produced 5.3mmt Conab say.

A double whammy of lack of rain and lack of credit is to blame, they say. Without credit farmers have cut back dramatically on fertiliser inputs and irrigation.

With no rain forecast for RGDS until mid-January the situation could get worse still.

EU Wheat Closing Comments

EU wheat futures closed mostly higher in quiet pre-holiday trade Tuesday. Paris March milling wheat closed EUR0.50 higher at EUR137.50, London May feed wheat finished up GBP3 at GBP115/tonne.

There was nothing much doing in early trade, with many market participants still away on holiday. However, with the pound plumbing to fresh new euro lows as the day wore on UK wheat found some buying interest.

It has to be said that it did look as if today was a kind of odd session, with nearby wheat trading up GBP5.50 at one stage, albeit for one lot. Signs that someone was maybe trying to manipulate the market on a quiet day?

Jan feed wheat closed at GBP108.25, around GBP20/tonne higher on recent contract lows, set only a few weeks ago (see chart below):

CBOT Closing Comments


March corn futures closed higher in today's session. July corn futures also closed higher on the day. February crude oil futures were down 83 cents per barrel at $39.19 upon the closed of pit trading in the grains. The US dollar index was slightly up during the close of the grain's trading session. Drier weather conditions in Argentina and Brazil are forecasted to continue to inhibit corn crops there. This was supportive to US corn futures, yet outside markets influences were mixed support to corn futures. The USDA is scheduled to release its 5-year adjustments of US and world supply and demand numbers tomorrow afternoon. The USDA Hogs & Pigs report showed smaller than expected market hog numbers, which is not bullish for corn demand. March corn closed at $3.96 3/4 , up 2 3/4 cents; July corn closed at $4.17, up 2 3/4 cents.


January soybean complex settled mixed this trade session. January soybeans and soy meal futures settled higher, while January soy oil futures settled lower. A weakness in the US dollar earlier during grain trading, and continued dry weather conditions forecasted in Argentina and Brazil lent strength to US soybean futures. Higher meal futures also boosted product value for soybeans despite a little drag from the bean oil. Crude oil futures were trading lower than $40 per barrel during grain pit trading and closed lower. That weighed on the bean oil via biodiesel margins. January soybean settled at $9.45 3/4, up 7 1/4 cents; January soy meal settled at $298.00, up 59 cents; January soy oil settled at $32.11, down 10 cents.


March wheat futures in Chicago, Kansas City, and Minneapolis finished higher at the close of the trading session. A weakened in the US dollar earlier, a lower crude oil, and gains in the equities markets provided bullish support to wheat and the other grains. Saudi Arabia announced plans to tender for 500,000 tonnes of hard wheat which would be helpful to US wheat exports. Pakistan via the TCP, has issued to purchase 250,000 tonnes of wheat from the US. These potential US wheat export news contributed to wheat's gains today. CBOT March wheat finished at $6.04 3/4, up 12 3/4 cents; KCBT March wheat finished at $6.21 3/4, up 10 3/4 cents; MGEX March wheat finished at $6.55, up 10 cents.

eCBOT Close/Early Call

The overnight eCBOT session closed with gains across the board with soybeans ending around 10c higher, with corn up around 5c and wheat up 2-3c.

Dry weather in Argentina and Brazil was cited as reason behind the recent rally.

Weaker crude pared gains, and year-end book squaring is keeping traders cautious of entering into new longs until next week.

Argentina is the second-largest global corn exporter behind the United States and the world's largest exporter of soymeal and soyoil.

An ongoing drought situation there has already slashed 2008 wheat production from 16mmt last season to an estimated 9-10mmt now. Reports of some truly awful yields suggest that final output there may be even lower, with around 20% of the crop still to harvest.

Traders are fearful now that this situation will spill over into spring-harvested soybeans and corn unless significant rains arrive soon.

In Brazil, some farmers in the top soy state of Mato Grosso have already begun harvesting but in other states the crop has been hindered by dry weather.

Despite the Chinese government being an aggressive buyer of domestic soybeans and corn in an effort to support the rural economy there, they may soon re-open the export door, some analysts say.

Beijing will allow the export of 500,000 tonnes of corn, 500,000 tonnes of wheat and a small amount of rice, early in 2009 they said.

This would certainly seem likely to cap any significant price rallies for the time being, at least until any crop losses in South America could be quantified more accurately.

Early calls for this afternoon's last full CBOT session of 2008: Corn futures are expected to open 4 to 6 higher; soybeans 9 to 12 higher; wheat 2 to 4 higher.

Cargill Donate USD5 Million To World Hunger

Cargill Inc., are to donate $5 million to world hunger it was announced Monday.

The agricultural giant generously said that it will make following donations:

1) $500,000 to the Salvation Army
2) $500,000 to Harvest heartland
3) $ 1 million to Feeding America
4) $2 million to be distributed through the companies own people and offices
5) $1 million to Global Food-banking.

A Cargill spokesman denied that there was any truth in the rumour that now that Robbie Mullen is on a strict diet, they've more than covered that amount of money already on his expenses at the local pub.

UK Crops Well Behind Last Year

ADAS is reporting that UK winter grains and oilseeds are generally well behind last season in terms of development.

A combination of late drilling, cloddy soils and colder temperatures, particularly in the north and the west, means that the chances of hitting last season's production levels have been dealt an early blow.

Around 10% of planned winter wheat acreage hasn't even made it into the ground, they say. This coincides with a recenr Farming Online survey.

Only about 20% of wheat crop has started tillering, well behind 50% at the same time last year.

Some planned winter barley acreage also won't make it, and is now likely to be sown in the spring, they say. Around 40% of what has been sown is tillering, just half of the 80% that was tillering twelve months ago.

Winter oats are estimated at 20% tillering, compared to 60% a year ago.

Winter oilseed rape development is very varied, they say, with some crops very small in areas where drilling was delayed or soil conditions poor.

Winter beans have also got off to a poor start, with fewer acres planted than had been anticipated, again largely due to wet conditions.

Throw reduced fertiliser inputs into the equation, due to cost & financial considerations, and we could be looking at significantly lower output in 2009, particularly if Mother Nature doesn't co-operate.

Bakery Services PLC Shares Suspended

Shares of Bakery Services on London's AIM were suspended at 0.025p Wednesday pending the following announcement:

"Pursuant to Rule 15 of the AIM Rules for Companies the Company's shares have been suspended from trading on AIM with immediate effect, as the Company was unable to implement its investing strategy by 28 December 2008, being the anniversary of the Extraordinary General Meeting at which shareholders gave their consent to the disposal of the Company's operating subsidiaries.

"The directors continue to pursue acquisition opportunities for the Company and will make further announcements when appropriate.

"In particular preliminary discussions are ongoing with one party and the directors are actively considering seeking an admission of the Company's ordinary shares to PLUS, an alternative market to AIM which can provide a suitable trading facility for shareholders and lower listing costs for the Company.

"In the event that the Company does not undertake an acquisition that constitutes a reverse takeover pursuant to Rule 14 of the AIM Rules for Companies the admission of the Company's ordinary shares to AIM will be cancelled on 29 June 2009."

Pound Slumps To Near 7-Year Low Vs Dollar

The pound slumped to a six and a half year low of $1.4396 against the dollar Tuesday, and was close to Monday's all-time low against the euro, as speculators picked the UK currency off as easy prey.

In subdued holiday trade dealers are looking for some easy money, and sterling fits the bill perfectly.

The pound has been battered by a plethora of awful economic news over recent weeks and now finds itself near parity with the euro, and it's lowest against the dollar since April 2002.

One-for-one with the euro seems to be on the cards, it's just a matter of when, possibly in even thinner trade tomorrow? The interesting thing will be to see how sterling fares in the new year once normal trading resumes. Will it bounce back from parity, much as we have seen when the dollar briefly breached the $2 mark against the pound a couple of times in the last few years?

Some seem to think so: Pound Poised to Gain as BOE Slows Pace of Rate Cuts

Overnight Developments

eCBOT grains are a tad higher this morning in see-saw trade. At 9.15am GMT soybeans were around 5c higher, with corn and wheat up 2-3 cents.

Grains failed to hold onto yesterdays gains last night as month, quarter and year-end profit-taking kicked in after two or three sessions of strong gains.

The market seems however underpinned for the time being by dryness in South America (see here for some truly shocking Argy wheat yield statistics), strong Chinese buying and a weaker dollar (although not so much against an equally weak sterling).

Crude oil is half a dollar lower at $39.50/barrel. Crude prices rose above $40 a barrel yesterday as Israel and Palestinian militants exchanged rocket fire and the death toll mounted.

Crude is set for it's first annual decline for seven years in 2008.

Although US stockpiles are rising, this is partly due to the holiday season and also the contango situation that exists in the market, where the large premium between nearby months and forwards pays the oil giants to store oil.

OPEC's cuts, if carried through, may well start to squeeze supplies as we get into the new year, ultimately supporting the markets by the spring.

The pound is currently trading at 1.0239 against the euro, close to yesterday's all-time low of 1.0210. that makes one euro worth 97.74 pence, just under yesterdays low of 98 pence.

The dollar is down the most in a fortnight against the euro, at 1.4187 from 1.3927, on concerns that the problems in the Middle East will lead to disruptions in crude oil supplies. It seems pretty unlikely to me that this will, in reality, be the case. The eurozone does, however, offer a substantially better interest rate than the US at the moment, if you can call 2.75% attractive.

Russia Exported Over 1MMT Wheat 1-24 Dec

During the period December, 1-24, 2008, grain exports from Russia totaled 1.36 mln tonnes, including 1.05 mln tonnes of wheat, 308,000 tonnes of barley and 2,000 tonnes of rye, according to the Russian Ministry of Agriculture.

The Best Performing Commodity Of 2008

Cocoa. Can only continue go one way apparently. Sell the arse off it, I say.

Is The High Street Closing Down?

Three more retailers have fallen into administration, setting the tone for a likely string of further collapses in the new year.

USC, a 58-store branded fashion chain backed by the business tycoon Sir Tom Hunter, appointed administrators yesterday afternoon, according to media reports.

In addition, Passion for Perfume, a 45-store fragrance chain, confirmed that it too has called in the administrators over the past week.

Meanwhile, Olan Mills (no he's not the new Man City right back), a photography studio which lists 34 studio locations across England and Wales, many of them within baby goods retailer Mothercare stores, said in a statement on its website that it stopped trading on Boxing Day and was appointing an administrator.

These latest collapses add to a growing list of firms for whom the writing was on the wall for the new year. With quarterly rents due and sales slumping, there will I fear be many more to follow in the Jan/Apr period.

Whittard of Chelsea, The Officers Club, Zavvi, and children's wear outfit Adams have all gone, or in the later case seem, about to go the same way over the last ten days or so.

Argy Wheat Crop 'Dismal'

Well, I guess we've been well overdue for a crop disaster somewhere, and it looks like Argentina is the first name out of the hat for some time.

The one thing the drought has down down there is advance the harvest to around 87% complete as of Christmas Day, according to the Argy Ag Secretariat. That's up 17 points from the harvest pace of a year ago.

One report circulating on the Dow Jones wires says that in southern Buenos Aires province, near Bahia Blanca, yields are averaging just 0.65mt/ha.

Let me read you that again. Averaging, not reported as low as in the worst farm in the province, AVERAGING 0.65mt/ha. It's one of those figures that is so low you wonder if it's a typo.

"Dismal" is how the Ag Secretariat describe it, and they certainly aren't wrong there considering that in decent parts of Europe we can average 7-8mt/ha.

Their official production estimate of just 9mmt vs 16mmt last season may be in jeopardy if yields like that are correct.

Ch, Ch, Ch, Ch, Ch, Changes

Nogger has been working very hard across the festive period, whilst the rest of you have been stuffing your faces with rubbish, to bring some life-enhancing changes to your blogging experience.

As these are gradually being implemented over the next week or so, please bear with me. I will endeavour to make the transition as painless as possible.

These will include futures prices updated throughout the day for all the European & US grains markets (including the overnight eCBOT), I may even throw in Aussie wheat & crude oil just because I can.

I just need to find an aesthetically pleasing way of making it all look not too overpowering.

Meanwhile if you'd like such things on your existing website, or even a new one designing from scratch, drop me an email: Nogger

Check out the Gemcom website for an example of the sort of thing Nogger could do for you.

EU Wheat Futures Sharply Higher

EU wheat futures closed sharply higher Monday, supported by firmer US markets over the holiday period and steadier crude oil.

UK wheat was also helped by another day of record lows against the euro for sterling.

March Paris milling wheat ended up EUR5.50 at EUR137.00/tonne. London November feed wheat closed up GBP5 at GBP122.50/tonne.

Trade was generally quiet, with many participants either content to sit on the sidelines until the new year, or still away on holiday.

In such a low volume session it seems likely that the upside on London wheat was overdone & exaggerated.

The pound continues to drift ever closer to parity with the euro, today hitting an all-time low of 1.0210. This should provide underlying support for wheat. However, export homes still need to be found in the new year if we are going to make serious inroads into our exportable surplus.

CBOT Closing Comments


March corn futures ended lower than their opening in Monday's trading session. This is in contrast to corn futures trading last Friday and the overnight session to a new high since the beginning of this past November. Recent Israeli-Palestinian conflicts sent crude oil futures higher prior to the grain markets opening and the US dollar index weakening, but corn futures haven' responded positively to these influences. Favourable weather this week in the central US will be conducive to corn cash selling. Non conducive weather in Brazil and Argentina is expected this week, inhibiting favourable crop growth. These factors on top of a down day in the stock market weren't enough for corn futures to end the day higher. March corn finished at $3.93 1/2, down 18 3/4 cents; July corn finished at $4.14 1/4, down 18 1/4 cents


January soybean, meal, oil futures settled lower in Monday's session. Soybean complex futures rallied this past Friday and during this past overnight session, but couldn't continue this upon trade opening this morning. Rising crude oil future values, declining US dollar index, and strong export demand from China were providing the positive influence to soybean complex futures but wasn't enough to let soybean complex end in the positive. As mentioned above, weather conditions in the US and South America will be friendly for US soybeans and not for their South American counterparts. January soybean closed at $9.38 1/2 , down 13 1/4 cents; January soy meal closed at $292.10, down $5.60; January soy oil closed at $32.21, down 61 cents.


Chicago, Kansas City and Minneapolis wheat futures closed trading lower in today's session. A down day in the stock market, and spillover bearish activity from soybeans and corn affected wheat futures. Threats of winterkill in the US midsection have dissipated due to milder weather conditions early in the week while colder weather expected later but not enough to foster winterkill. A weakening dollar should be bullish support for wheat in the form of favourable US export prices, but trading didn't reflect this. CBOT March wheat settled at $5.92, down 7 1/4 cents; KCBT March wheat settled at $6.11, down 5 1/4 cents; MGEX March wheat settled at $6.44 1/2, down 8 1/2 cents.

Ten On Trial In Chinese Melamine Scandal

Ten people have been put on trial across the weekend in the Chinese northern province of Hebei, accused of producing, selling or adding protein powder that contained melamine to raw milk.

Six went on trial Friday, with another four Monday in Shijiazhuang, capital of Hebei and headquarters of the Sanlu Group, the company at the heart of the scandal, Xinhua news agency said.

Sanlu was closed in September and went into bankruptcy last week.

Tian Wenhua, the former board chairwoman and general manager of Sanlu, goes on trial on Wednesday, according to media reports.

Australian Wheat Leaps Monday

Australian wheat futures jumped A$14-18 Monday, following three consecutively higher days in Chicago.

Harvest pressure has eased in the east, with things pretty much wrapped up in NSW and Queensland, reports suggest.

In Western Australia however, the nation's largest producer and exporter, the harvest continues to lag, and is only around half done in the south of the state.

Overnight Markets Extend Rally

The overnight eCBOT market has extended the recent rally in the grains pit with the complex higher across the board Monday morning.

Corn is up for the fifth straight session, marking its highest levels in eight weeks, and now sits comfortably above $4/bushel.

Israeli air strikes in the Gaza strip increased Middle East tensions over the weekend, sending crude oil higher.

Weakness in the dollar against the euro is also adding support to the grains complex.

A dry Christmas period in South America is also seen as bullish for corn and soybeans, as is continued domestic stock-piling by China.

At 8.30am GMT corn and wheat were around 7-8c firmer, with soybeans around 22-23c higher.

This gives beans a combined gain of around 74-75 cents over Christmas Eve/Boxing Day and this morning. Corn has added around 25 cents and wheat around 32 cents in the same period.

Crude oil is almost $2, or 5%, firmer this morning at $39.56/barrel.

The dollar is broadly weaker, although not significantly so against the pound which is also on it's arse, as crude rises in response to the Israeli's Christmas present for the Gaza Strip.

At 8.45am GMT the dollar was 1.4237 against the euro, from 1.4028 late in New York on Boxing Day. Against a similarly blighted pound the dollar was $1.4690. The greenback also slid on speculation that US housing and manufacturing reports due this week will show the economy is continuing to deteriorate.

The pound is down again against the euro, falling to 1.0297, guess what folks, that's another all-time low and one step closer to parity. One euro is now worth more than 97 pence.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development says that that while total UK unemployment will not hit three million next year, the time between New Year and Easter will be the worst for job losses since 1991.

The news comes as a host of major High Street names have, or are about to, close their doors. It seems that this could just be the tip of the iceberg, with many store having slashed goods by up to 70% before Christmas, where is the money going to come from to pay the bills during the lean Jan/Mar period?

With children's clothing chain Adams said to be on the brink of administration, following the collapse of Woolies, Zavvi, Whittard. Officers Club, MFI et al who is next?

According to the Times at the weekend Focus DIY, Jessops, Clinton Cards and Land of Leather are amongst the favourites.

An Icelandic government fire sale may see the likes of House of Fraser, Hamleys and Karen Millen sold of on the cheap, reports suggest.

The High Street could look very different this time next year.