Baltic Dry Jumps More Than 50 Percent In A Week

The Baltic Dry Index closed almost 10% higher Friday at 1,642. The index, the benchmark for freight costs for dry bulk commodities such as iron ore, coal and grains, has now jumped 53.5% in a week.

The index is now at it's highest level in four months and almost 150% up on it's December low of 663.

A renewed Chinese appetite for iron ore is being cited as one of the main factors behind this sudden rapid increase, together with a correction from an overdone move to the downside, shipbrokers say.

Chinese Whispers?

This drought situation in China is getting interesting. The Chinese wheat crop is the single largest wheat crop in the world, roughly equal to the entire US and Russian wheat crops put together. And so is their annual consumption. That's a lot of wheat.

Clearly a serious crop failure there would have major global implications, wouldn't it? Not at all if you believe what many experts in the West are saying.

Virtually all of the major news services seem to be carrying stories playing down the impact on the market.

"The impact of China's drought on the world wheat trade will be none because of the size of their stocks," says one.

"China is not going to import wheat...they have plenty of inventory left over from last year," says another.

"We, as yet, do not see China becoming a major importer because of its massive Government reserves that could see them through an almost total disaster in the affected regions," say Frontier on their website.

They do have plenty of stocks too, somewhere around 60 million tonnes of the stuff depending on exactly who's report you read.

So it's all a load of hype then? Well, the government there don't seem to think so, on Friday they allocated 86.7 billion yuan (about $12.69 billion) from its reserve in relief funds to drought-hit areas.

Why would they do that if they had an amount roughly equal to the anticipated entire 2009 production of the US of wheat in state reserves?

Hang on a minute, I'm getting a touch of déjà vu here. Has anyone actually seen these reserves with their own eyes recently? Wasn't there a huge scandal in China not that long ago when it was discovered that storekeepers were getting paid by the government to store grain that wasn't actually there?

Just like the melamine thing was an open secret, you don't suppose it's been common practice for years for storekeepers to sell grain out of the backdoor whilst continuing to fill in the forms to the government do you? What a corrupt Chinese grain storage business as bent as a Arabs sword, surely not.

"Hello, Madoff Grain Storage. Yes, don't worry about your grain it's all here nice and safe for when you want it Mr Government Man, yes, yes, I'm looking at it right now. I counted it all for you yesterday, it's all there, don't you worry. Just wire me the money next week like you always do. Thank you, bye, missing you already."

Even so, this couldn't go on on a large scale could it? We'd only be talking what, a maximum of 5% or something? And five percent of a 112.5mmt crop is only 6mmt. Yeah, but what if it had been going on for ten years! What's ten times six again? Bloody hell that's 60mmt!!

It couldn't happen could it? Nah, I'm only messing, that's about as likely as them buying wheat off us! And that isn't gonna happen is it?

What? They did that last month? Get me a nurse.

I love a good conspiracy theory.

EU Wheat Closing Comments

EU wheat futures closed a tad higher with March Paris milling wheat ending up EUR1.25 at EUR150.00/tonne and May London feed wheat closing up GBP0.90 at GBP118.40/tonne.

UK wheat put in an impressive performance to trade higher throughout the session considering the pound pushed through $1.48 against the dollar and 1.15 versus the euro.

Once again, this market is all about currency. Given the size of the UK's exportable surplus, it seems to me that the only way old-crop prices can push higher is on the back of a weak sterling. A not entirely unimaginable scenario certainly!

Egypt may be back in the market for wheat next week, according to media reports. If so French wheat may again get the nod, which may provide a bit of support.

Argentine soy & corn crop concerns have been eased slightly by decent rains throughout the past week. The USDA is out with a revised WASDE report on Tuesday, they may drop Argy wheat production from last months estimate of 10.5mmt to around 9mmt. If so that would be a reduction of nearly 44% on last year.

Drought problems also exist in China's wheat growing areas, with around 40% of the crop said to be affected. "Affected" of course doesn't mean lost or at risk of being lost. The government there have stated very publicly that they will fund large-scale irrigation programmes to ensure that crop losses aren't too severe.

What To Expect From The USDA Tuesday

Perhaps the most closely watched figure when the USDA come out with their revised supply & demand and stocks data on Tuesday will be the size of this season's Argy soybean crop.

Last month's estimate of 49.5mmt will surely be cut, but by how much? The USDA attaché now pegs output at 42.5mmt, some private estimates start with a three. The USDA are famously cautious, and rarely slash or raise by such large amounts in one go. It is also noteworthy that the attaché did his report before this past weeks rains fell. I think they may come in around 45mmt, 4.5mmt down on their last estimate.

For what it's worth the Buenos Aires Cereals Exchange said Friday that this past weeks rains helped to "stop the abrupt decline in the yields" meaning that this season's crop would not now fall below 40mmt.

Soy output in Brazil may also be trimmed by a million or so, from last months 59mmt to around 58mmt.

Of course it isn't just soybeans that have been affected by the drought in South America, corn production too is likely to have been badly hit.

For Argentina, last months USDA estimate was 16.5mmt, and for Brazil 53.5mmt. This time round I think we can expect figures of around 14mmt and 52mmt respectively. For Argentina that would be a reduction of a third on last season's 20.85mmt crop.

The USDA may well also revise Argy wheat production lower now that the harvest is complete. Thier January estimate was 10.5mmt, around 2mmt higher than local estimates, I think that might now be trimmed to around 9mmt.

Now we move on to US ending stocks. The corn number is likely to be increased due to lower demand from the ethanol sector. Last months figure was 1.790 billion bushels. The average trade estimate this time round is 1.838 billion, in a range of 1.740-1.940 billion. I'd tend to side towards the upper end of that scale and look for ending stocks around 1.9 billion.

For soybeans, the average trade estimate is for stocks to be reduced from last months 225 million to 203 million, in a range of 123-230 million. I'd say around 200 million is about right.

For wheat only minor tweaks are likely, with ending stocks very similar to last months 655 million. The average trade guess is 649 million, from a range of 591-685 million. I see very little change here with a number around 650-655 million.

CBOT Closing Comments


March Soybean finished at $10.01, up 21 cents supported by a call for hot and dry conditions to return to Argentina in the week ahead. Additional support to soybeans came from expectations of decreased ending stocks of US soybeans from this Tuesday’s USDA WASDE. The USDA will also undoubtedly lower production estimates in Argentina quite sharply, and also probably more modestly for Brazil. A weak dollar on the back of awful jobs numbers also lent support. Lower crude oil and a lack of Chinese interest during the week prevented beans from rallying too far.


March Corn settled at $3.77 1/4, up 6 cents supported by next week's weather forecasts for Argentina and spillover strength from beans. Whilst it is not too hard to make out a case for a soybean rally it is somewhat more difficult for corn. The USDA will likely trim production estimates from Brazil as well as Argentina on Tuesday. Last month the USDA put Argentina at 16.5mmt and Brazil at 53.5mmt. With crude at $40/barrel and around a fifth of US ethanol plants idle, US ending stocks are set to rise from last month's estimate.


March CBOT Wheat closed at $5.57, down 4 3/4 cents on forecasts for rain in the US Plains. Rain is also in the forecast for parts of China's wheat area, and the government there has announced plans for widespread irrigation of crops threatened by drought. For wheat, only minor tweaks are expected from the USDA in next week's report with ending stocks maybe lowered a fraction.

eCBOT Close/Early Call

eCBOT grains closed higher with March soybeans up 16 1/2 cents, March corn up 4 1/4 cents and March wheat closing up 6 1/4 cents.

Concern over the drought in China has got the wheat market aggitated, with around 10m hectares, or approx 40,000 square miles affected. Apparently your average Chinese peasant farmer isn't too keen on irrigating his crop with prices where they are at the moment.

With China the world's biggest consumer of wheat by far, a crop disaster there would certainly have implications for the global market.

In Argentina, this weeks rain certainly will have helped matters, but it is still too early to say exactly how much damage has been done. Looking further ahead there isn't too much rain in the forecast. In fact to be specific there is none at all until Feb 21st on the website I am using.

Crude oil is back below $40 at $39.64/barrel, that may weight a little.

US jobs numbers just released this afternoon were very poor, even worse than expected, with 598,000 jobs going in January. That was the most since 1974 and takes US unemployment to 7.6 percent. That might prompt a bit of a run on the dollar, adding strength to the grains.

Early calls for this afternoon's CBOT session: Corn Up 3-5c, Wheat Up 4-6c, Soy Up 10-15c.

Freight Market Up Again

The Baltic Dry Index jumped 14% Thursday, adding to a 15% leap the day before, to post its 13th day of successive increases.

Closing at 1,498 the index has now gained 125% since early December when it fell to 663. The index is now at its highest level since October last year. There could still be plenty of room on the upside yet, as we are a long way from the index's all-time high of 11,793 set in May 2008.

Commodities finally seem to be starting to move again, with letters of credit being more readily accepted, prompting a flood of interest to fix iron ore vessels to China. BHP Billiton say that the Chinese iron ore destocking process is almost over pushing spot prices higher.

Keen not to miss the boat (!) South Korea have bought around a million tonnes of wheat and corn in the last two weeks in a rush to build stocks before freight rates rise further.

Pilgrims Pride Reports Hefty Q1 Loss

Pilgrim's Pride Corp., the largest chicken producer in the US which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in December, has reported a Q1 loss of $228.78 million, or $3.09 per share, compared to a year-earlier loss of $32.33 million, or 49 cents a share.

Revenue for the period was $1.88 billion compared with year-ago revenue $2.05 billion.

The news comes just a day after rival firm Tyson Foods Inc., reported Q1 losses of $286 million from it's chicken operations.

Latest Global Crop Production Forecasts From Informa

Informa Economics have released the following global crop production estimates:

2009/10 2008/09
Wheat 662.4mmt 681.8mmt
Corn 791.4mmt 788.6mmt
Soybeans 256.0mmt 225.5mmt
Rapeseed 54.9mmt 56.3mmt
Sunseed 31.8mmt 32.8mmt

General Busines News Snippets (Incl Video)

The Royal Bank of Scotland has chopped seven directors in a boardroom cull today. Good riddance to bad rubbish I say.

Volkswagen says sales fell 20% in January. Toyota, has said that it expects to make a 450 billion yen (GBP3.4 billion) operating loss for 2008, THREE times as much as it forecast as recently as December. This will be the first time Toyota has been in the red in 71 years.

In the final quarter of 2008 there were 2,428 corporate insolvencies in the UK, a 220% rise on the same period the year before.

British Airways has announced a £70 million loss in the nine months to 31 December.

Overnight Markets Push Higher

The overnight grains are firmer, adding to last night's gains as the dollar continues to slide. Beans currently around 10-12c higher, wheat and corn up 2-3c. Latest eCBOT prices are on the right.

The dollar is lower in cautious trade ahead of key US jobs data later today that is expected to paint an even bleaker picture of the US labour market.

The pound is higher against the euro too, as traders conclude that yesterday's half point cut in interest rates was already factored into the market. The ECB will cut in March, according to just about the entire world. It may be a case that the BOE cut is being seen as more pro-active than the dithering approach adopted by Mr Trichet.

Conab cut it's Brazilian soy & corn crop estimates yesterday. The USDA are likely to do the same when they release their latest WASDE figures next week. They are also, of course, expected to slash output forecasts in Argentina. The US Attache dropped his estimate for Argy soy production to 42.5mmt from 49.5mmt earlier in the week.

Upside potential for corn will be limited by the USDA likely raising their stocks estimates as 21% of the US ethanol industry out of action (according to ADM this week) due to poor margins. With crude at $40/barrel, that doesn't look like changing anytime soon.

Hurrah!! We appear to be returning to the good old days where grain is grain, not a raw material for fuel. Fundamentals are what the market should trade on, lets get back to focusing on crop production, weather, supply, demand not whether rebels have shut down a Shell refinery in Nigeria.

South Korea remain big buyers, booking 330,000 of corn yesterday in what seems to be a move to get the orders in before freight goes even higher. They have now booked around a million tonnes of feed wheat and corn in the last fortnight.

More than 10 million acres of wheat in China is on the country's highest level of alert following more than three months of drought. That is keeping the wheat market on it's toes.

Argentina Rain Latest

This is the latest official map of rainfall in Argentina for the period 09:00 04/02 to 09:00 05/02, as supplied by José Lavista, reputedly the best agri-product dealer in Uruguay! Thanks, José. Plus for those of you of a forgetful nature, a map of the main crop areas:

Dioxins Found In Irish Milk

Milk from two dairy farms in Northern Ireland has been stopped from entering the food chain following test results that show dioxin levels above legal limits, the Food Standards Agency said yesterday.

Although breaching regulations, these levels of dioxin are much lower than those found in pork and beef affected by feed contamination last year. The risk to health from either drinking the affected milk or eating products made from the milk is extremely low, they say.

The Food Standards Agency says it is continuing to monitor the situation and is in close contact with Government bodies in Northern Ireland. Contamination of the milk is likely to be from dioxin residues in the fat of animals that had previously eaten contaminated feed, it adds.

No, I don't understand the last bit either. How are they suggesting that could have happened?

EU Wheat End Mixed

EU wheat futures closed mixed with March Paris milling wheat closing up EUR2.50 at EUR148.75/tonne, and London May feed wheat closing down GBP0.25 at GBP117.50/tonne.

There wasn't a great deal of fresh news today, it was mostly about currency movements. The BoE dropped UK interest rates by a half point, whilst the ECB left rates unchanged.

Both moves were widely expected, yet the pound managed to post gains against both the dollar and euro after the announcement was made.

Consequently, a firmer pound equals a lower wheat price, so London wheat fell to close in negative territory.

Egypt bought a decent quantity of French wheat this week, and wit the euro depreciating further, that helped support Paris prices.

CBOT Closing Comments


March soybeans finished 30 1/2 cents higher at $9.80, hitting new highs for the week, on lingering concerns that significant crop damage has already been done in Argentina despite rains earlier this week. The threat of strike and disruptions to grain movements in the country also underpinned futures, especially nearby. The USDA attache in Argentina said that this season's crop would come in at 42.5mmt, 7mmt under the last official USDA estimate. Even at 7mmt under he may be optimistic according to private estimates.


March corn ended up 13 cents to $3.71 1/4, buoyed by spillover strength from the soy & wheat pits and strong weekly export sales. Weather conditions in Argentina remain a serious concern, more so even than for soybeans. A farmers strike next week is in the offing, if it doesn't happen the it seems like only a matter of time.


March wheat rose 19 1/2 cents to $5.61 3/4 a bushel on a correction from recent losses, traders said. Drought in China seems to be affecting wheat crops in particular. There are also concerns for the crop in the US with winter wheat in Oklahoma and Texas in pretty poor condition.

eCBOT Close, Early Call, Export Sales

eCBOT grains closed the overnight session mostly higher with March corn closing up 3/4 cents, March soybeans ending up 7 1/2 cents, and March wheat up 10 cents.

A lower US dollar is boosting hopes of a pick-up in export interest. Certainly there has been quite a bit of tender activity around the week with South Korea and Japan buying US corn & wheat.

The USDA reported weekly export sales for the week ended Jan. 29, of 1.16 MMT for corn (for the current MY); 336,600 MT for soybeans; and 326,800 MT for wheat.

Traders expected corn sales from 750,000 to 950,000 MT; soybean sales from 450,000 to 650,000 MT; and wheat sales from 250,000 to 450,000 MT.

So the figures are being called bullish corn, neutral wheat and bearish soybeans. Bean sales were light, but China was on holiday last week, and sales have been running very well up until now.

CONAB now pegs the Brazilian soybean crop at 57.2 MMT versus 57.8 MMT in January, and 60 MMT a year ago. While the corn crop is estimated at 50.3 MMT compared to 52.3 MMT previously.

China's Office of State Flood Control and Drought Relief declared a "level 1" emergency for the drought situation in northern parts of the country, calling it a "severe drought rarely seen in history."

Today’s rain in Argentina is forecast to total 0.25 to 0.75 inch, with a return to dry conditions by the weekend.

Early calls for this afternoon's CBOT session: corn called 3 to 5 cents higher; soybeans called 8 to 10 cents higher; wheat called 7 to 10 cents higher.

CONAB Revises Brazil Crop Production Estimates

Conab has issued revised production estimates for Brazilian soybeans, corn and wheat for the 2008/09 crop.

Soybean output is now seen at 57.2mmt, down 2.8mmt from year ago levels. The crop has been reduced by drought in southern Brazil, a slightly lower planted area and reduced fertiliser application due to high prices, they said.

Corn production is seen down 14.2% to 50.3mmt, whilst wheat production is seen almost 48% higher at 6.0mmt.

The wheat number will only go part of the way towards satisfying Brazil's requirements. With the door to Argentina seemingly locked and bolted, the US will be lurking in the wings hoping for some new export business later in the year.

Bunge Posts First Quarterly Loss Since It Became Public

My old company Bunge Ltd has posted its first quarterly loss since it became a publicly traded company in 2001.

The company lost $210 million, or $1.89 a share, in its Q4 2008 results - compared to net income of $245 million, or $1.82, a year earlier.

Still, 2008 hasn't exactly been a bad year for Bunge. Alberto Weisser, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer said in a public statement, “In 2008, Bunge produced record results in one of the most volatile years in recent memory. We earned over $1 billion in net income for the first time and produced $2.5 billion of cash flow from operations. We start 2009 with a comfortable liquidity position and a strong balance sheet. The weak global economy will pose challenges, but we see reasons to be optimistic that conditions for our industry will improve during the course of the year."

Dairy Farmers' Milk Hopes Evaporate

Dairy Farmers of Britain has fallen into line with other UK milk buyers announcing a 1.1ppl milk price cut across the board.

The move follows similar cuts by Arla, Robert Wiseman, and Uncle Tom Cobbley.

Dairy farmers' hopes, boosted by rising prices in 2008, appear to have evaporated almost as quickly as they came along.

According to levy board body DairyCo UK milk production was at a 30-year low in 2007/08 and with prices now falling again that trend looks set to continue.

ECB Leaves Rates On Hold

As with the BOE's widely anticipated cut, the ECB conformed to the majority of expectations by leaving interest rates in the Euro Zone unchanged today.

In a Reuters survey, out of 85 respondents 82 said they expected ECB rates to be left on hold today. A similar majority predict a cut when the bank next meets in March however.

ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet holds a press conference at 1.30 to explain the banks decision. His comments will be closely monitored by the market for clues as to how much of a cut can be expected in March.

Tyson Reports Hefty Q1 Loss

The largest meat producer in the US, Tyson Foods Inc., lost $112 million dollars for the first quarter, compared to a year-ago profit of $34 million.

The loss of 30 cents per share, or 10 cents per share, comes on revenue of $6.52 billion, compared to $6.48 billion a year ago for the period ending Dec. 27.

Tyson was weighed down by losses of $286 million from it's chicken operations, $183 million of which came from higher grain costs, it said. The company's pork sector made $55 million and it's prepared foods segment made $35 million. Tyson's beef sector broke even.

BOE Cuts Rates By Half Point, Pound Goes Through USD1.46

As widely anticipated the Bank of England has cut interest rates by a half point to a fresh historic low of 1 percent.

A decision by the European Central Bank is due around 12.30 GMT. A more cautious approach is expected from the ECB, with the market anticipating rates in the Euro Zone to be left unchanged.

With rates already so low many analysts believe that today's change will do very little to stimulate economic growth.

The pound broke through the $1.46 level against the dollar shortly after the news, to push to its highest level since Jan 19.

In the US base rates are 0.25 percent and in Japan just 0.1 percent.

With levels this low there's not a lot of bullets left.

John Torode Resigns As RASE President

Celebrity chef John Torode has resigned as president of the Royal Agricultural Society of England (RASE) after only four months in the job.

It is thought that Torode threw his toys out of the pram when served a slightly overcooked rack of lamb in the RASE canteen, according to reports circulating inside my head.

"Whoever succeeds me, it's gonna change their lives," he said. Adding "we're looking for an amateur president of the Royal Agricultural Society of England that can make it as a professional."

"Being president of a Royal Agricultural Society doesn't get tougher than this."

"The road to being president of the Royal Agricultural Society of England is littered with failed chocolate mousse," he concluded.

Before pausing to add "Nah, lamb, pineapple, prawns and custard just doesn't work for me. Where's that bald bloke?"

Tainted Irish Pig Feed Plant Never Inspected

The Irish pig feed factory at the centre of December’s dioxin scare had never been inspected by the local council since it got its operating licence in 2005, according to the Irish Examiner.

Although the Millstream plant carried out a self-assessment report on an annual basis, no inspectors were sent in because it was considered low risk. An inspection scheduled for 2008 under the council’s Environmental Inspection Plan was not carried out due to lack of resources, the newspaper says.

Welcome Finland!!

Nogger has noticed a disproportionately large number of blog hits emanating from Finland. A new chum of mine, Harri from Finland, emailed to explain that the mighty Nogger's Blog is often mentioned over there! Finland, Uruguay, they're all on here I tell you.

Anyway, following a link from a hit this morning I saw the name Nogger mentioned in amongst a load of Finnish, a language in which I shamefully have to admit that I am less than fluent.

Undeterred, I thought I would Google an online translator to get a rough idea of what our chums in Finland are saying.

Here is the literal translation given:

"In Argentina a rain was obtained to a part of the field and the clown school thought that the prices keep to be its honour to calculate. Wrong thought, the rains came too late so that there would be even just help from them. Furthermore, the driest areas got nothing yet. Noggers blogin the hemmo has accumulated an illustrative presentation on the matter. Chap who is seriously cheated."

What's a hemmo? I've never been called one of them before. And I'm not too sure where the clown school come in either. Or is that a reference to the Argy government? Cheated - He obviously knows Mrs Nogger#1 then! Answers on a postcard please.

UK Housing: The Beginning Of The End?

UK house prices rose 1.9% during January according to the Halifax. Is it the beginning of the end of the downturn, or merely the end of the beginning? Who can tell, certainly the information contradicts Nationwide's survey last week that said prices fell 1.3% in January.

If the Halifax are right, it ends an 11-consecutive month losing run for house prices.

The news brought some cheer to the pound ahead of an anticipated BOE rate cut later today that some analysts are calling "pointless".

Freight Market Jumps

The Baltic Dry Index jumped 15% yesterday as the number of idled cape-sizes fell to almost zero.

A sudden pick-up in export interest from the Far East for everything from grain to iron ore, as credit lines clear, is being linked to a rapid tightening of freight.

The BDI fell as low as 663 early December, a fall of almost 95% from it's May high of 11,793.

Yesterday the Index closed at 1,316 posting a 70% gain since the turn of the year.

Yesterday the freight rate for cape-size vessels was quoted at $21,810 per day, compared with a level of only $2,000-$2,500 per day in December.

“Letters of credit of some important banks are now being accepted. Besides, that demand from China and Brazil has improved,” said one ship owner.

What To Expect Today From The BOE, ECB

Interest rate announcements from the European Central Bank and the Bank of England headline the economic calendar today. In the UK, policymakers are expected to cut interest rates by 50 basis points to bring borrowing costs to 1%, the lowest ever.

The ECB however is thought likely to keep interest rates on hold at 2% despite mounting threats to economic growth and record-low inflation.

Unlike with the BOE, for the ECB there have only been three weeks between the January and February announcements and policymakers have indicated a desire to wait and see the tone of “new information”.

Whereas the BOE decision seems generally clear cut, the ECB announcement stands to create substantial volatility as traders scrutinize the wording of the statement accompanying the release.

Overnight Markets

eCBOT is mostly a little steadier overnight with soybeans 1-2c higher, wheat and corn around 1c firmer.

Export interest is quite buoyant. South Korea bought 165,000mt each of wheat and corn earlier in the week and are back in the market today for a further 275,000mt of corn.

Japan bought 128,000mt wheat overnight with 86,000mt coming from the US.

With the harvest just about wrapped up the US attache in Australia said that final wheat production Down Under will be 20.15mmt.

It sees like it is still too early in the day to accurately assess the impact on yields of this weeks rains in Argentina.

Drought in China is also a concern with 9.50 million hectares of wheat now affected. Last year China produced around 112.5mmt of wheat, only 20mmt less than this years anticipated production for the whole of the EU-27.

The pound is flat ahead of the Bank of England's announcement on interest rates due at lunchtime today.

Crude Declines On Stocks Data

Crude oil is close to penetrating the $40/barrel mark after data released by the US Energy Dept late yesterday showed stocks rising substantially more than anticipated.

The figures said that crude oil inventories rose 7.2 million barrels to 346.1 million barrels last week. Stocks were expected to be around 2.8-3.0 million barrels higher.

Supplies at Cushing, Oklahoma, where oil traded on NYMEX is stored, rose 2.5 percent to 34.3 million barrels, the highest on record.

In contrast, gasoline supplies rose 362,000 barrels to 220.2 million, less than the 600-800,000 anticipated.

The gap between front-month March and April crude has now widened to around $4/barrel, whereas on forward months it is less than a dollar. March is currently $40.41/barrel.

Argentina Rain

Latest available rain map for the 24 hour period 9am local time 03/02 to 9am 04/02, ammount in mm:

With thanks for the map to Jose Lavista in Montevideo.

CBOT Closing Comments


Corn closed a mixed session lower, with March corn ending down 3 1/2 cents to $3.58 1/4 per bushel. Demand isn't great, although South Korea bought 165,000mt of US corn overnight. Rain in Argentina is seen as beneficial, but quantifiying exactly how much good it will do is still a contencious issue.


Beans closed slightly higher with March ending up 3 1/2 cents a bushel at $9.49 1/2, still well off the day's highs of $9.68. The weather in Argentina has certainly improved, but it is still difficult to say how much this has help the soybean crop there, I guess we can at least say more than it has aided the corn crop. Still production looks like being well down on the originally anticipated 50mmt.


March wheat closed down 10 1/4 cents at $5.42 1/4 a bushel, frustrated by news that the US had picked up little interest in export tenders today. Egypt bought mostly French wheat, and Pakistan bought optional origin wheat. Japan will almost certainly buy US wheat tomorrow, but that is normally a given. Korea at least bought a bit of US wheat also, but these trades highlight how very competitive the world export market is at the moment. Chinese and US drought issues got pushed to the background, but may emerge sometime soon.

EU Wheat Ends Lower

EU wheat futures closed mostly lower with Paris March milling wheat flat at EUR146.25/tonne, and London May feed wheat closing down EUR1.35 at EUR117.75/tonne.

The euro was weaker against the dollar which helped support Paris wheat, whilst the pound was stronger against the dollar which depressed UK prices.

French origin wheat also picked up a 180,000mt order from Egypt which was supportive.

Pakistan bought over 400,000mt optional origin wheat but it is unlikely that any of this will come from the EU.

Still, it is encouraging to see some decent export orders on the table.

Whilst Argentine rains have come too late to help the wheat crop, there may be some benefit to be derived for corn & soybeans.

Drought in China and the US is also a concern for 2009 wheat crops.

Egypt Buys Mostly French Wheat In Tender

Egypt has bought over 200,000mt wheat in a tender concluded Wednesday the state-owned GASC said.

It bought 180,000mt French wheat at around $205/tonne C&F, plus a further 28,000mt Russian wheat at around $202/tonne C&F, it said.

eCBOT Close/Early Call - There's 10 Million Unused Umbrellas In Beijing

eCBOT closed firmer with March corn up 3/4 cents, March soybeans up 9 1/4 cents and March wheat up 3 3/4 cents.

A weaker dollar, firmer crude oil and a feeling that yesterdays losses were overdone helped grains end in positive territory.

Heavy rain in Argentina has abated, but the general feeling still seems to be that some irreversible damage has been done by the most severe drought conditions in fifty years.

Crude oil is a little higher for now, but everything could change when the Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration release their weekly energy stocks report later today.

Crude oil stocks are expected 2.8 million barrels higher, distillate stocks 1.3 million barrels lower, and a 600,000 barrel increase in gasoline stocks.

Pakistan bought over 400,000mt optional origin wheat in various tenders. South Korea bought 165,000mt each of wheat and corn.

Reports are coming in of a serious threat to winter wheat in China. As of February 2, 9.3 million hectares of wheat in six major grain production provinces were hit by drought, Agriculture Minister Sun Zhengcai said.

Sun said little rainfall since last October was the main reason for the prolonged drought in most parts of the northern areas, and frequent cold snaps this winter made the situation worse.

According to today's weather reports the drought in north China is expected to continue with no rain in the forecast for the next ten days. It has not rained in Beijing since October 26, a period of 100 days, making this the longest drought on record since 1971.

Early calls for this afternoon's CBOT session: corn 1-2c higher, wheat up 3-4c and soybeans up 8-10c.

Ukraine Grain Exports Slowing

The Ukraine exported around 1.6mmt of grain in January according to the Ukrainian Agrarian Confederation.

Although a similar quantity to that shipped in December export tonnage is starting to slip away.

Ukraine grain exports have slowed quite rapidly from 2.8 mln tonnes in September, to 2.2 mln tonne is October, to 1.8 mln tonnes in November, 1.5 mln tonnes in December, and 1.6 mln tonnes in January.

Ukraine has now exported around 14.6 mln tonnes of grain in the first seven months of the 2008/09 marketing year starting July.

The Agriculture ministry has set a target for total grain exports for the full marketing year of 25 mln tonnes. That still leaves 10.4 mln tonnes to go, with just five months of the marketing year remaining the country needs to step up the pace to around 2.1 mln tonnes/month to reach it's target.

There are various reasons for the slowdown according to the ministry, the December/January holiday, the switching to supplies further away to the north from the southern Black Sea ports, and the hope that prices will rise.

Pakistan Buys 409,000MT Wheat

Pakistan has bought 409,000mt of optional origin wheat in a couple of tenders, according to media reports.

All the wheat is believed to have been bought around the $231 C&F level from a variety of different sources.

Icelandic Baugur In Administration

Baugur, the Icelandic investment group has gone into administration.

The company owns, or has stakes in, some major High Street names in the UK such as Hamleys, House of Fraser, Goldsmiths - the jeweller, Whistles - the fashion chain and Iceland the frozen food retailer. There are clearly a wealth of puns there. And that's before we even get started on the country electing the world's first openly gay PM at the weekend!

The company says it has applied for a moratorium to allow it to stop paying its creditors.

A company statement says that the moratorium involves the "Baugur Group and a number of its wholly owned subsidiaries" without going into specifics.

Supermarket Wars Latest

Discount supermarkets continue to gain ground as the battle for your weekly grocery order intensifies.

Perceived low price store Morrisons was the fastest growing of the big four in the 12 weeks to Jan. 25, with sales up 9.7 percent within a market growing by 6.4 percent. Asda also saw growth outstrip the sector average, posting a sales increase of 8.1 percent.

The UK's top-dog Tesco only saw sales increase by 4.7 percent during the same period, whilst "upmarket" Waitrose saw sales increase by just 0.7 percent.

The hardcore pile 'em high and sell 'em cheap approach of Aldi saw it achieve the most impressive growth in the period with sales up 24.1 percent. Iceland - didn't their Christmas TV ad make you want to throw - weighed in with a sales increase of 14 percent. There obviously are a few Jason Donavan fans left.

Tesco had 30.7 percent of the UK market for the 12-week period, down from 31.2 percent a year ago. Second-placed Asda has 17.2 percent (from 16.9), third placed Sainsburys 16.3 percent and Morrisons 11.9 percent.

Data for just the four week period to Jan. 25 shows Tesco with 30.3 percent of the UK market, Asda 17.8 percent, Sainsburys 16.3 percent and Morrisons 11.9 percent.

Overnight Market News

eCBOT is a little steadier on ideas that last night's losses may have been overdone a tad. Last night's close and the latest eCBOT prices are available on the right.

China will continue to support it's own domestic farmers by buying a further 2.5mmt of corn for government stockpiles in Heilongjiang province, according to reports.

Rains have finally arrived in Argentina, but may be too late to save some corn & soybean crops in the area, with up to 40% of corn and 20% of soybeans "beyond help" according to some reports.

There are quite a few tenders around with South Korea buying 165,000mt each of optional origin corn and wheat yesterday. Bunge sold the wheat.

Egypt is looking for at least 55,000mt wheat and Japan is expected to buy 128,000mt of the grain tomorrow, the majority being US origin.

Pakistan has bought 172,500mt of optional origin wheat, and may buy more ahead of the weekend.

Drought is said to be seriously threatening the Chinese wheat crop with water levels running at 50-year lows. Red-alerts have been issued in at least two provinces in the north of the country.

Thought For The Day

Data just released shows that meat consumption in Russia grew by 12.5% up to 63 kilograms per capita in 2008 compared to 2007, according to Viktor Zubkov, the First Deputy Chairman of Russian Government.

Russia imported around 2.75 million tonnes of meat in 2008, almost all of it coming from non-CIS countries, according to data from the Federal Customs Service (FCS).

Russian meat consumption is forecast to continue to grow at a rapid rate. Meanwhile, the country aims to be self sufficient, in the production of pork and poultry within the next five years.

As part of the strive to reach these goals 22 new and 63 reconstructed broiler production facilities as well as 82 new and 80 reconstructed pork production plants were put into operation in 2008.

The Russian livestock sector is still pretty inefficient, in pigs the average feed conversion ratio (FCR - units of feed needed for one additional unit of meat) is around 6, whilst in EU/USA it's close to 3.

So here we have a country who's meat consumption is rising, and who has a game plan to reduce imports and produce more itself (poultry & pork import quotas for 2009 were recently reduced). It also currently has a relatively inefficient livestock sector.

Surely that means that its domestic grain consumption is going to rise rather significantly? And Russian grain production in 2009 and 2010 looks set to fall.

OK, it can westernise it's production methods for both grain and livestock, but that isn't going to happen overnight is it?

Just a thought. These are the things that keep me awake at nights. Well that and Mrs Nogger.

Argentine Farmers Protest

A group of farmers on Monday staged a protest against ruling party deputy Augustin Rossi after he visited city hall in Luguana.

The demonstrating farmers threw eggs and tomato’s at him, also at his car when he was leaving the town.

The protest was strongly condemned by the government and the farmers groups in Argentina.

Farm leaders are calling for the government to suspend export taxes for three months, followed by a ten percentage point cut in rates as farmers struggle to survive the country's worst drought in fifty years.

The government however are showing little sign of backing down, and further and more widespread co-ordinated action seems highly likely in the weeks ahead.

Argentina: Heavy Rains Kill Five

Five people, including two children, died and at least 47 others have been injured in the storm that is battering central Argentina, which was recently hit by the worst drought in the past 50 years, officials said Tuesday.

Four people, one of them a teenager, died in the city of Rosario and a girl died in the town of San Pedro in the torrential rains that started Monday night.

Rosario was lashed by intense rain and winds of more than 90 kilometres which uprooted hundreds of trees and destroyed power lines causing a blackout which left the almost one million residents with no electricity.

Rosario is located 300 kilometres north of Buenos Aires and is the second most important city of Argentina. Surrounded by rich farmland it’s considered the soybean hub of Argentina, Paraguay and southern Brazil.

The two young men were killed and dozens injured when a tent with the capacity to hold 8,000 people collapsed in Rosario.

The tent, which was erected by an evangelical church, crushed a 22-year-old man and a 14-year-old boy, officials said, adding that two women and an 11-year-old boy were hospitalized with fractures. Two men were also electrocuted in separate incidents.

The emergency management office said the storm’s heavy rains and strong winds flooded streets, left vehicles stranded, toppled trees and ripped off roofs, especially in poor areas.

Meteorologists predict that the worst of the storm has passed but more rain is expected until the weekend.

CBOT Closing Comments


March soybeans finished 13 1/2 cents lower, at $9.46, roughly in the middle of the days trading range. Heavier than anticipated overnight rain in Argentina, and the forecast of more to come led to selling from the outset. However, the jury is still out on exactly how much damage in South America is irreversible. Quite a lot according to my information, with the Argentine crop "at least" 20% lower than originally anticipated no matter what the effect of rain in the last 48 hours.


Corn closed lower with March ending down 8 3/4 cents at $3.61 3/4 per bushel. As with beans Argentina weather is dominating the market at the moment. It seems clear that some decent rains have arrived, but it remains unclear how much benefit the corn crop will receive in the wake of the worst drought in living memory. The USDA is out with its latest S&D report next week, undoubtedly it will lower production in Brazil as well as Argentina. ADM announced nearly 21% of US ethanol production capacity has been shut down as a result of decreased demand and declining margins. The implications for corn demand in the US are obvious.


Wheat closed 11 1/4 cents lower at $5.52 1/2 a bushel, pulled down by weakness in the other grains pits. There are some hopes that the US will pick up some export orders this week. Japan will buy American wheat Thursday, whilst Iraq, Pakistan and Egypt are also in the market. Talk that Black Sea supplies are tightening up and that US wheat is now cheaper, thanks to a subdued freight market, helped add a bit of support. Crop conditions for winter wheat in the US are not good at all. Today Oklahoma agricultural officials reported that wheat crop condition in Oklahoma's estimated 5.4 million acres was 36% rated poor to very poor, and the Texas Agricultural Statistics Service reported that wheat crop condition in the estimated 5.9 million acres there was 64% rated poor to very poor.

EU Wheat Closing Comments

EU wheat futures closed lower pressured primarily by rain in Argentina and a weaker dollar.

Hugely varied reports abound as to how much rain has fallen in Argentina over the las 48 hours of so, and to exactly how beneficial these rains will be.

My information, for what it is worth, is that rains have been quite significant but that substantial crop losses have already occurred.

Paris March milling wheat closed down EUR2.25/tonne, whilst London May feed wheat was down GBP1.50 at GBP118/tonne.

Late weakness in the dollar, with the pound surging close to $1.45 added to the negative tone.

Various tenders this week may encourage market participants, with Egypt, Iraq and Pakistan all in the market for wheat, some of which may be EU origin.

Black Sea grain seems to be less competitive for once, and the US may be Europe's main competitor.

At the end of the day however, with current pricing structure where it is, there isn't a lot of risk in farmers carrying old crop into new crop. With Nov '09 UK futures running at a GBP4/tonne over July and Paris at a EUR6 premium over August why sell unless you have to?

Argentine Rain Map

A map showing where the all-important Argentine rains fell from 9am local time 02/02 to 9am 03/02, supplied by my Uruguayan correspondent Jose Lavista. Beneath that a couple of maps showing the main crop areas.

Argy Precip

Argy Corn

Argy Soy

eCBOT Close/Early Call

eCBOT grains closed lower with soybeans down around 11-12c and wheat and corn both around 4c easier.

The trade is wrestling to evaluate the extent of overnight rains in Argentina. Private reports reaching me suggest that there was a much more significant rainfall event than the rest of the market seems to think.

Spot crude is back below $40/barrel which will add to the negative tone, whilst the dollar is flat.

The much talked about February break is upon us. Still, what's that old saying about buying on Locust Dinner Day? That of course is Friday, and you will all no doubt be keeping in touch with the markets via your iPhones/smart phones/Blackberrys etc by pointing them at won't you?

Demand is what we need to get these markets going, but where is it going to come from? With yet another US ethanol company filing for chapter 11 over the weekend - how many is that in the last 12 months? - don't expect corn to get too much help from that direction. China have been conspicuous by their absence last week as they took the week off to celebrate their New Year. That may hit the USDA weekly export sales report announced Thursday. Wheat, well it can't get any lower than 23,500mt can it? There are at least a few tenders around this week:

Pakistan are tendering for up to 400,000 wheat, with Japan in for 128,000mt having cancelled last week, and Iraq looking for 50,000mt.

Black Sea origin wheat hasn't enjoyed quite such a free reign this last couple of weeks as supplies finally tighten a little, weather concerns are also making logistics difficult. It will be interesting to see who picks up what business out of these tenders.

Early call for this afternoon's CBOT session: Corn Down 2-4c, Wheat Down 3-5c, Soy Down 10-12c.

First Milk Cuts Again

First Milk has announced its second milk price cut in as many months, dropping its core price by 0.75ppl to 24.3ppl effective from Feb 1st.

The move follows cuts by other leading milk buyers, all of whom are blaming continued pressure on dairy commodity prices.

Robert Wiseman, Dairy Crest, Arla and Milk Link have also cut prices to similar levels recently.

ADM Q2 Profits Up 24 Percent

Archer Daniels Midland Co., the Decatur-based food processor and ethanol producer says that despite the economic downturn profits for the second quarter ended Dec. 31 rose 24% to $585 million, or 91 cents per share, up from $473 million, or 73 cents per share, a year ago. Revenue rose to $16.67 billion from $16.5 billion a year earlier the company said. Strong performances came from the oilseed processing and agricultural services sectors, whilst the company's ethanol side took a hit from tighter margins.

Soybean/Rapeseed World Demand 2008/09

Oil World now expects global soybean production to reach 224.4mmt in 2008/09, which is 8.8mmt below its previous forecast of 233.2mmt, but still above the 221.7mmt produced in 2007/08. Global use is projected at 227.7mmt it says and ending stocks at 59.3mmt, down from 62.4mmt a year previously.

World rapeseed production is now estimated at 58.0mmt, up slightly from the 57.5mmt estimated in December, and 18% higher than the 48.7mmt produced in 2007/08. Total use is seen at 55.3mmt (50.6mmt a year previously) and ending stocks at 7.2mmt (from 4.5mmt).

Soymeal/Rapemeal World Demand 2008/09

Oil World forecasts global soybean meal demand for the marketing year 2008/09 (Oct./Sept.) to total 156.7mmt. This is 3.5mmt below the previous forecast of 160.2mmt and 3.3mmt less than the 160.0mmt used in 2007/08.

Global exports are estimated at 53.6mmt, down from 55.0mmt previously and 56.3mmt a year ago.

Argentina's exports will drop, but it will still easily be the world's largest exporter accounting for 25.8mmt of global trade, 1.2mmt lower than last season. Brazil will be the second largest exporter at 11.6mmt, and the USA third at 7.8mt.

Worldwide rapeseed meal demand should reach 30.8mmt in 2008/09, up 2.2mmt from a year ago. The EU will account for 11.3mmt of this (10.9mmt in 2007/08) and China 7.8mmt (6.8mmt in 2007/08).

Bullish Agri Commodities

The world may be going through an unprecedented economic downturn leading to falling stock markets, volatile commodities markets and collapse of banking giants. But some investors continue to be bullish in these times of extreme bearish markets. One such is global investment legend Jim Rogers.

Rogers, who shifted his residence from the United States to Singapore, “to live in Asia because things are happening in Asian countries, particularly China,” says he continues to be bullish on a select few commodities.

”I continue to be bullish on most agricultural commodities. I also look forward to big investment opportunities in commodities like crude oil, cotton and zinc,” Rogers said in a recent interview.

Rogers, chairman of Rogers Holdings, and a a vocal critic of America and Britain says commodities will be the place to put your money so that when the world comes out of the economic meltdown.

According to him, the tightness in the credit markets is leaving farmers unable to buy fertilizer. “No companies are opening new mines, leaving supply problems which will be followed by shortages,” he said pointing out that he expects commodities prices to naturally rebound in the next few years.

Recently, Rogers famously said that the pound was "finished" and he was putting all future hopes and investments in China. “The charm of United Kingdom is all over and it would be prudent to sell the pound fast,” he is quoted as saying.

According to Rogers, three billion people living in Asia, most of them in India and China, will account for a major portion of the total demand for commodities in the coming years.

Johnny Rotten Boosts Dairy Crest Sales

Bizarre as it might sound, linking ex Sex Pistols front man with Country Life butter seems to be paying off for Dairy Crest. And presumably for Mr Lydon himself, where's your principles now Johnny Boy?

Volumes of spreadable Country Life are up 85 percent in the latest quarter say Dairy Crest, adding that trading had steadied since a November profit warning, with sales rising 4 percent in the nine months ended Dec. 31.

Lydon is desperate to cash in on his rediscovered C list celebrity status, by releasing a remixed version of some famous Sex Pistols hits including: EatSomeBrie in the UK and God Save The Queso.

Breaking Weather News

My man Jose in Uruguay has emailed me this morning to say:

"Since 21.30 hrs of the 02/02/2009 there are being really heavy rains in all the Buenos Aires province, Rosario (Santa Fe), Cordoba and Entre Rios.

In Rosario it was 50 mm in 1 hour!!! And it continue raining. I recommend you this web site for Argentina:

In Uruguay we already had rains last week, and this one it’s really general all around the most important soybean complex from Argentina."

Thanks, Jose.

Anyone checking out the website will need to speak Spanish/Portuguese, but it does mention for Central Buenos Aires: Precipitación: 117.6 mm (I am assuming that means in the last 24 hours), that's about 4 1/2 inches.

The website I use is giving "very heavy rain" for Thursday night too.

Too little too late, or saved by the hand of God?

eCBOT doesn't seem to know any of this yet as it's only 1-2c down on beans and corn.

Another US Ethanol Plant Fies For Bankruptcy

There can't be too much of this house built out of a pack of cards left to fall can there? Renew Energy LLC, operator of a year-old ethanol plant in Jefferson, sought protection from creditors in U.S. Bankruptcy Court Friday. The company listed debts of up to $500 million.

Australian Heat Breaks Records

Inland areas of Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia are entering their second week of 40 degree-plus heat, and cooling relief will have to wait until next weekend.

Ivanhoe in far western NSW baked in 47-degree heat today, their hottest day in three years. This is also their eight consecutive day above 40 degrees. In the nearby Riverina, Griffith and Hay have both had seven days in-a-row of 40 degrees or hotter. The last time there was a longer such spell was 50 years ago for Hay and at least 30 years ago in Griffith.

Mildura in northwestern Victoria has also had seven days in-a-row of 40 or hotter, which is a 62 year-old record. The previous longest was six days in January 1979. Just over the SA border, Renmark is on target to break a record. Tuesday will be its eight consecutive day above 40 degrees.

Driven to distraction by the insufferable heat, an ice-cream woman in Victoria was found dead in her van, covered in chopped nuts, smarties and chocolate sprinkles. Police are working on the theory that she topped herself.

CBOT Closing Comments


March soybeans finished 20 1/2 cents lower at $9.59 1/2, falling to one month lows, on reports of rain in Argentina and more in the forecast for the week ahead. Additional bearish pressure came from a higher US dollar index, lower crude oil futures and the same old concerns about the US and global economy. It will be interesting to see if China come out again as heavy buyers of beans after their week-long break. The market seems rangebound and we need something pretty dramatic to break us out, it may take a few months yet for the market to realise that the supply situation in Argentina is in reality probably a lot worse than is currently factored into the market.


Corn closed lower with March ending down 8 1/2 cents at $3.70 1/2 per bushel. Again Argentina weather provided a bit of a bearish influence, ditto a firmer dollar, weak crude and economic worries. As with soybeans it is my belief that Argentine weather will ultimately wipe out a considerably higher amount of corn than is currently factored into prices. An inch or inch and a half of rain will not be adequate to sort this crop out, and after this week the forecast switches back to hot & dry.


March wheat ended down 4 1/4 cents at $5.63 3/4 a bushel, not too bad a performance considering. Continued dryness in Oklahoma and Texas added a major weather market concern, with some reports of struggling wheat crops likely to be dug up and replanted with cotton. Still, spillover weakness from soy & corn conspired to drive wheat prices lower, although some strength was garnered from news that Egypt bought 60,000mt US wheat over the weekend.

EU Wheat Ends Mixed

EU wheat futures closed another dull session mixed with March Paris milling wheat ending down EUR2.25 at EUR148.75/tonne, whilst London March feed wheat was up GBP0.50 at GBP117/tonne.

London wheat benefited from a weak sterling ahead of the BoE's expected 0.5% cut in UK interest rates Thursday. Volume was low however as heavy snow kept many traders, particularly in the South East, away from work.

Egypt bought some French wheat Friday which also added a bit of support.

Argentina remains a constant worry, with fairly scattered rainfall over the weekend unlikely to have done much to alleviate extreme drought conditions.

Paris wheat was modestly lower throughout the day on light commercial selling.

Widespread heavy snowfall across the EU is unlikely to have caused much damage to winter wheat, indeed it may have helped protect crops in some countries from winter kill.

eCBOT Close/Early Call

March soybeans finished the overnight eCBOT session 9 3/4 cents lower at $9.70 1/4, May corn was down 7 1/2 cents at $3.82 3/4 and March wheat fell 5 cents to $5.63.

Futures are seen starting the new trading month lower amidst a dearth of fresh news. Crude is a bit lower, and the dollar somewhat firmer which adds a bit of a negative tone.

Argentina got some rain over the weekend, with a bit more in the forecast for the week ahead. Looking at some of the videos posted on here recently a foot of rain or more is needed to make any difference not an inch or so.

There is also the possibility of strike action by Argentine farmers in the next week or two, disrupting world supplies.

Egypt bought French and US wheat late Friday. Pakistan are sniffing for up to 500,000mt wheat this week.

For this afternoon's session soybeans are called 10 cents to 12 cents lower, with corn and wheat 4-6 cents easier.

China Blocks Import Of Tainted Milk Powder

China has blocked 9.62 tonnes of bacteria-tainted milk powder and formula from Taiwan and Australia from entering the domestic market, the country's quality supervision watchdog and state media said on Monday.

Pot, kettle etc. Still, there's no use crying over spilt melamine is there?

Revealed: The Best And Worst Banks In The UK

A Which? magazine survey asking 15,000 people how satisfied they are with their current account, savings, mortgage and credit card providers has thrown up a best and worst list.

The Best banks/lenders were internet bank Smile, First Direct and the Co-op, with another internet candidate Cahoot also scoring well.

The beastly boys were Abbey, Barclays and Halifax.

UK: House Up For Sale For GBP9,000

Got a grown-up son still living at home and can't get rid of him? Buy him a house in Middlesbrough!

A house in the scenic seaside resort town is up for grabs for just £9,000 - reputedly the cheapest habitable property in the country.

And he gets the luxury of a leading Premiership football team right on the doorstep (depending on who they are playing that is), PLUS a Gregg's Pie shop on every street corner, PLUS the company of some local ladies who don't set their sights too highly, if you know what I mean. Why 'aye man.

It's in the Currant Bun so it must be true: here

Iceland Appoint Gay PM - NWF Shares Slump

Shares in NWF Group plc fell after it was revealed that Iceland had appointed the world's first openly gay Prime Minister at the weekend.

Johanna Sigurdardottir, 66, was sworn in on Sunday, taking office less than a week after the Cabinet resigned amid fallout from Iceland's financial collapse.

Shares in NWF Group, 25% Icelandic-owned, were down 1.5% on the news.

Overnight Grain Markets

eCBOT grains are a little lower after some rain fell in Argentina over the weekend. Beans are around 8c lower, corn down 5c and wheat 1-2c easier.

US winter wheat in Texas is under threat from drought, as is wheat in China's Henan province.

Egypt bought 120,000mt French wheat and 60,000 US wheat in tenders Friday/Saturday, whilst Japan bought over 200,000mt US corn.

Rain in Argentina appears to have been scattered, rather than the widespread soaking many had hoped for. Latest estimates say 800,000 cattle have been lost on the Pampas.

There is some talk of a farmers strike in Argentina starting as soon as next week. That would certainly affect availability and probably push spot premiums higher.

The pound is sharply lower ahead of Thursdays anticipated half percent cut in rates from the BoE. It's nice to get back to normal with the pound isn't it? I feel a bit "weird" when it's going up!

LIFFE wheat has opened 50p easier, with MATIF around EUR1.50 lower.

Crude oil is around a dollar lower at $40.73/barrel as demand continues to fall.

And if you think unemployment is bad over here, a report out today suggests that 26 million migrant Chinese workers are now out of work as exports slump in the face of the global economic recession.

Police Fire Tear Gas At Greek Farmers

Riot police on the island of Crete fired tear gas at farmers on Sunday to prevent them from driving their tractors from the Greek port of Piraeus to the capital as part of a protest demanding government financial help. At least two people were injured in the clashes.

The farmers arrived in Piraeus on overnight ferry boats from Crete with dozens of tractors, pick-up trucks and other agricultural vehicles they intended to drive through Athens to the Agriculture Ministry. But Greek authorities had said they would only be allowed to carry out a demonstration on foot, not with vehicles that would snarl traffic in the capital.

A group of farmers, black flags fluttering from their tractors, attempted to break through the police lines inside the port, and riot police fired tear gas to push them back. A photographer said at least two people – a woman who was with the protesters and was struck by an agricultural vehicle, and one man - were injured.

The tense stand-off at the port is the latest twist in nearly two weeks of protests by Greek farmers, who had used their tractors to block border crossings and highways across the country. They are protesting low prices for their products and demanding financial help from the government.

General Business News (Incl Video)

Woolies is to be relaunched as an online retailer by new owners Sir David and Sir Frederick Barclay (also the owners of the Telegraph). I'll have a fivers worth of pick 'n' mix please lads to give you a bit of a start like.

GlaxoSmithKline is the latest company expected to announce big job losses, around 6,000 will go according to several of the Sunday papers at the weekend.

India is tomorrow set to launch a laptop computer costing just £7 according to the Times. I can only assume that they are going to make their money by keeping you on hold three days whilst trying to get through to the helpline.

The FTSE is down nearly 2% in early trade with Barclays leading the way, 8.2% lower at 97.40 pence, still a darn sight better than a week or two ago.

Moody's cut its long-term ratings on Barclays by two notches to Aa3, citing expectations for "significant" further losses due to credit-related writedowns.

The pound is down sharply against the dollar at $1.42 ahead of another anticipated interest rate cut by the BoE Thursday.

Argy Weather Latest: The Hand of God?

There's been some scattered showers over the weekend in Argentina, but it seems like it's very far away from being a drought buster to me. Here's the forecast for the week ahead for Cordoba, being slap bang in the middle of the main soy & corn areas

Light Showers.
High: 31°C / 88°F.
Winds: NE 8-16 kph (5-10 mph)
Precipitation: 0.16 in
Partly Cloudy With Showers Possible.
High: 30°C / 86°F.
Winds: Calm
Precipitation: 0.52 in
Partly Cloudy With Showers Possible.
High: 30°C / 86°F.
Winds: E 8 kph (5 mph)
Precipitation: 0.35 in
Partly Cloudy With Showers Possible.
High: 31°C / 88°F.
Winds: E 8 kph (5 mph)
Precipitation: 0.35 in

Now that does not look like a lot of rain to me, maybe an inch or a little more spread across the entire week during this critical period.

BBC weatherman and religious zealot Michal Fish issuing a fatwah on June 22nd 1986.