Bush May Tap USD700 Billion Bank Fund To Help Car Makers

President Bush said he is prepared to tap the $700 billion bank-rescue fund to prevent an auto-industry collapse.

"If there were finance companies that were too big to fail, there are certainly automobile companies that are," said one analyst.

Oil climbed more than $3 from Friday’s intra-day lows as the Bush administration’s apparent willingness to give short-term help to General Motors and Chrysler eased speculation that the companies will collapse.

"Under normal economic conditions we would prefer that markets determine the ultimate fate of private firms," Dana Perino, President George W. Bush's spokeswoman.

"However, given the current weakened state of the U.S. economy, we will consider other options if necessary - including use of the TARP program - to prevent a collapse of troubled automakers."

"Because Congress failed to act, we will stand ready to prevent an imminent failure until Congress reconvenes and acts to address the long-term viability of the industry," said a Treasury spokeswoman, Brookly McLaughlin.

The Biggest Con Of All-Time

Shock and panic spread through the country clubs of Palm Beach and Long Island after Bernard Madoff, a trading powerbroker for more than four decades, allegedly confessed to a fraud that will cost his wealthy investors at least $50 billion – perhaps the largest swindle in Wall Street history, reports the Times.

A senior enforcement official at the US Securities and Exchange Commission, described the scheme as “a stunning fraud that appears to be of epic proportions”.

Mr Madoff's scam was ludicrously simple. His operation advertised abnormally high returns to investors. But in reality there were no investments, returns were paid out of money put into the scheme by subsequent investors, rather than from real profits generated by share trading.

Many of his investors came from the enormously wealthy enclaves of Palm Beach, Florida and Long Island, New York, where people had invested billions in Mr Madoff’s firm for decades.

The two most prominent hedge funds that invested with Madoff were the $7.3 billion Fairfield Sentry, run by Fairfield Greenwich Group, and the $2.8 billion Kingate Global Fund.

Competing hedge fund managers have wondered privately for years how Madoff generated such high returns, in bull markets and bear, given the generally low-yielding investment strategies he described to his clients.

Mr Madoff has been charged with a single count of securities fraud. He declined to enter a plea in Manhattan’s US District Court and was released on $10 million bail. He faces up to 20 years in jail and a $5 million fine if convicted.

Two European banks are potential victims of the scam. Spain's largest bank, Santander, which also owns three UK banks, said one of its funds had $3.1bn invested in the firm run by Bernard Madoff. France's BNP Paribas estimated its exposure to be more than $460m.

Informa Slash 2009 US Corn Acres

Memphis-based research firm Informa Economics said Friday that US growers will sow 4.2 percent fewer corn acres in 2009, dropping to the smallest total in four years, and increase soybean acreage by 7.3 percent.

The gross returns on soybeans since September are $182-an-acre better than on corn, the private forecaster said.

Corn will be planted on 82.288 million acres, down from 85.889 million in 2008, according to Informa. Soybeans will be sown on a record 81.455 million acres, up from 75.878 million this year, they added.

Australian Grain Crop Hit By Mystery Fungus

Some barley growers in Western Australia, already struggling to harvest crops because of continuing rain, have been turned away from grain depots run by Co-operative Bulk Handling because their grain was infected with a fungus known only as "pink mould".

WA Agriculture Department scientists are racing to identify the mould, believed to be a type of Fusarium fungus, which could potentially leave barley riddled with toxins.

CBH said yesterday it was possible that infected grain could be downgraded to feedstock and did not rule out the possibility that it would have to be dumped.

Downgrading the barley from malting quality to feedstock grade would halve its value. Crop insurance would not cover pink mould, they said.

The south coast was hit by new flooding yesterday, raising the danger that grain would rot, farmers said.

The downpour dumped more than 30mm of rain on some parts of the region, exceeding the monthly average in a single night and closing many roads to all but large farm vehicles.

If the same fungus starts showing up in the wheat crop, it would be a disaster for growers in Australia's largest producing state, where the vast majority of the crop goes for export.

UK 2009 Crop Outlook

Delays to harvest 2008 plus a wet autumn have led to significantly reduced autumn plantings and poor establishment, according to Farming Online’s Autumn Sowing Survey which covers nearly a third of a million acres.

The survey of farmers and agronomists, conducted via Farming Online’s website, paints a dismal picture. Plantings of both winter wheat and winter oilseed rape are markedly reduced, especially in the wetter western parts of the country.

Farmers are asked to indicate how much of their intended autumn sowing had actually taken place and to rate how well those crops sown had established.

“Our findings point to harvest 2009 being well below average,” says Farming Online director Peter Griffith. “Especially when you consider this is the second wet season and soils are struggling to recover.”

Nationally only 80% of the planned acreage of winter wheat is established, with a further 10% sown late or not at all. The regional picture shows that although East Anglian farmers have managed to get most of their wheat acreage in and established, those further north or west have struggled. In the western half of the country nearly a third of the winter wheat acreage has yet to be sown and it is likely that this land will now be left for spring crops or even fallowed, they say.

The national winter oilseed rape crop has not got off to a good start either, they add. Some 28% of the national crop is either struggling to survive or has not been sown. Late sown crops have not put on the growth expected resulting in small plants which are susceptible to disease, winter kill or pigeon damage.

The north and west are bearing the brunt of the problem with over 15% of the crop sown late and a further 25% not sown at all.

Link: FOL Website

EU Wheat Closing Comments

EU wheat futures closed unchanged to slightly lower Friday in another quiet holiday-ish session. Paris March wheat futures closed down EUR1.25 at EUR126.50/tonne, London feed wheat closed unchanged across the board, with January at GBP91.75/tonne.

The market appears to have found it's correct level for the time being. Big exportable surpluses will continue to weigh right up until the 2009 crop.

According to the HGCA, the UK exportable surplus is 3.987 million tonnes.

Certainly the weak pound should help some find an export home, with sterling setting record lows against the euro on a seemingly daily basis at the moment. The latest one came Friday, with the pound closing at 1.1186, it's lowest ever close since the single currency's inception in 1999. Earlier in the day the UK currency hit an intra-day all-time low of 1.1119.

The Australian crop continues to be dogged by rain. As well as wheat being downgraded there are now problems with a "pink mould" fungus. Final output is expected to be a little under 20mmt, 7mmt up on last season, but around 4-5mmt under what was hoped for earlier in the season.

The Argentine crop is likely to come in around 10mmt, 6mmt or 37.5% down on a year ago.

The crop in the US is at threat from winterkill this weekend as very cold Arctic air blasts down from the north, putting crops not under snow in the Plains at risk.

Strategie Grains this week came out with their first estimate for the 2009 UK wheat crop, weighing in with an 8% reduction, at just over 16mmt. They also issued their first figures for the Spanish crop, dropping soft wheat production there by 15% to 4.712mmt.

In the US Informa said Friday that they projected 44.08 million acres of winter wheat planted for 2009 down from 46.2 million in 2008, a 4.5% reduction in area.

Informa also see plantings in Russia down 4.5% and in China down 6.25%.

In the Ukraine wheat planted area is down around 7% according to Informa. According to UkrAgroConsult, plantings are down more than 13% to 6.067m ha from 7.0m ha last season.

A recent survey by Farming Online says that in the UK only 80% of the planned acreage of winter wheat is established, with a further 10% sown very late or not at all.

It's no great surprise that farmers the world over are planting less, just as it was no great shock to see them plant wheat in their own backyards 12 months ago.

Add a few weather problems and yield reductions into the mix and the 2009 crop may well be significantly lower than most people seem to think at the moment.

CBOT Closing Comments

Corn

Corn futures opened lower but turn sharply higher after midday, closing 21 to 23 cents higher. Trade was volatile and choppy throughout Friday and was representative in the last hour of trade. Crude oil bounced off of early morning lows and traded about $1.50 lower at $46.50 per barrel as the bailout of the Big 3 automakers stirred turmoil. The dollar was slightly lower to steady underpinning the grain markets and helped sustain the corn rally. Deliveries against the Dec contract were 96; the front month which expired today. Trade continues to buck USDA's bearish supply and demand report by trading outside markets and disregarding some fundamentals. Informa Economics showed a 3.7 million decline in corn acres planted in the spring of '09 at 82.28 million acres vs. 85.9 in 2008. Dec +21 at 3.59.

Soybeans

Soybeans traded 20 cents lower for a majority of Friday but rallied back to close with only marginal declines in most contracts. Private firm Informa Economics released there estimates of planted acreage this morning, suggesting farmers will plant 5.55 million more bean acres than they did in 2008, for a total of 81.45 million acres. USDA confirmed a sale to China of 116,000 MT, totaling 236,000 MT for the week. Deliveries against Dec meal were a mere one contract and Dec bean oil 843 contracts. Both Dec meal and bean oil contracts expired at noon today and January will now roll into the front month for both commodities. Jan -2 at 8.54; Dec Meal -2.30 at 258.50; Dec BO -36 at 31.10.

Wheat

Wheat futures finished mixed in the three different Dec contracts, CHI and KC finished higher while MLPS closed 20 cents lower. All Dec wheat futures expired today and March will now be the front month. Deliveries issued against CHI were 138, KC had 42, and MLPS did not have any. Wheat futures continue to stare at bearish fundamental supplies bother domestically and globally, hampering upside potential. Informa projected 44.08 million acres of winter wheat planted for 2009 down from 46.2 MA in 2008. Dec CHI +15 at 5.06; Dec KC +8 at 5.30; Dec MLPS -20 at 6.04.

Overnight Developments - US Auto Bailout Fails

The US auto industry bailout has failed to get past the Senate. The failure came after bipartisan talks on the rescue plan collapsed over Republican demands that the United Auto Workers union agree to swift wage cuts.

"I dread looking at Wall Street tomorrow. It's not going to be a pleasant sight," said Senate majority leader, Harry Reid.

The news brought a sharp fall in share prices in Japan, Taiwan, South Korea and Australia. London is expected to follow suit when it opens later this morning.

Crude oil is down a couple of dollars at $45.95, having risen 10% yesterday. The bailout failure raising concern that a prolonged recession will reduce fuel demand.

eCBOT grains are weaker with soybeans 12-15c down, wheat 12 lower and corn off around 8-9c.

In overnight trade the pound stands at $1.4930 against the dollar and 1.1256 against the euro, close to yesterday's all-time low.

Nogger is off to Liverpool today for the LCFTA Christmas Draw, so I may see a few of you there. Normal updating of the blog will resume Monday.

Meanwhile forex and futures prices will update automatically on www.noggersworld.co.uk and/or www.noggermobile.co.uk from your mobile phone.

Crude Jumps 10 Percent

Crude oil jumped 10 percent Thursday after the Saudi Arabian oil minister said he had delivered the output cuts promised to OPEC, a sign that world supplies are smaller than traders had estimated.

Crude closed $4.46 higher at $47.98 a barrel. Oil is up 18 percent so far this week, the largest one-week gain since June 1998, when OPEC slashed output by more than 3.1 million barrels a day.

The Saudi minister, said in an interview that the kingdom pumped 8.493 million barrels of oil a day in November, close to its OPEC production quota of 8.477 million barrels a day. That’s 287,000 barrels a day less than recently estimated by the International Energy Agency.

Meanwhile, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said his country, the second-biggest oil producer, may join OPEC and also reduce output to support prices.

EU Wheat Ends Slighty Lower

EU wheat futures closed with modest losses Thursday. March Paris milling wheat futures closed down EUR1.25 at EUR127.75/tonne. May London feed wheat dropped just GBP0.05 to GBP97.75/tonne.

Not a lot of change in sentiment really, in quiet pre-Christmas trade. Farmers remain reluctant sellers, buyers are generally well covered nearby and fairly relaxed that prices aren't going to run away too much in the new year.

It seems to me like it's going to be all about currency for the next few months.

With the pound hitting record all-time lows on a seemingly daily basis against the euro, that is going to support UK wheat as we get into the new year. Fresh export homes are opening up for feed wheat (lets face it that's all we've got), if we look hard enough.

Concerns still abound for the 2009/10 crop. Exactly how much has been planted? How late is it? And the yields can't possibly match last season's record can they?

A few reports are starting to emerge now that 2009/10 UK wheat production may be down some 8-10% on the recently harvested crop. Nogger thinks that final output will most likely be lower than that.

It's early days and a hell of a lot is in the lap of the Gods viz the weather, but I'll say it again, the balance of probability points to final production numbers in 2009 much lower than the figures being generally mooted by the safety merchants. 15-20% down is nearer the mark I'd say, pegging next season's UK crop in the region 14-15mmt.

Yes I know that puts me out all alone on a limb, but I like it out there. If I wanted to just blindly agree with the rest of the herd then you probably wouldn't be reading this.

CBOT Closing Comments

Corn

Corn futures closed higher on strength in crude oil and declines in the dollar. Gains came despite what appeared to be a bearish report on paper. USDA hiked ending stocks by 350 million bushels to 1.474 billion bushels with a 300 MB reduction in ethanol use. Crude oil was sharply higher and traded $3 gains from most of the day lending support to grains. Also lending support was sharp declines in the US Dollar which was off 150 points. Corn exports were impressive to say the least; USDA reported export sales for last week of 1.05 million metric tonnes well above trade estimates of 650,000 to 850,000 MT and marked the first time exports sales peaked above 1 MMT for the current marketing year. Dec +11 at 3.38.

Soybeans

Soybean futures finished 25 to 27 cents higher Thursday. Support came from firmness in crude oil as threats of oil production cuts boosted prices along with a weaker US currency. USDA left ending stocks at 205 MB slightly above trade estimates. USDA also reported striking export sales for last week of 811,900 MT above trade estimates of 550,000 to 750,000 MT. China has reportedly purchased additional 120,000 metric tonnes of US soybeans, as they remain US's top importer or soybeans. Deliveries against Dec meal were a mere one contract and Dec bean oil 493 contracts. Jan +27 at 8.56; Dec Meal +10.40 at 260.80; Dec BO +.87 at 31.46.

Wheat

Wheat futures closed mixed when the final bell rang on Thursday. Wheat futures did not shoot higher like corn and soybeans as bulls weren't as eager to step into a bearish S&D report like they were in corn and soybeans. USDA increased their ending stocks projections to 623 MB which was above average trade estimates of 595 MB and the Nov projection of 603 MB. Wheat export sales continue to slump, USDA reported 239,300 metric tonnes below trade estimates of 250,000 to 350,000 MT. A sharply lower US Dollar didn't seem to have much bullish impact on the wheat futures as they posted marginal gains and even some losses. Deliveries issued against the Dec CHI contract were 725, Dec KC 118, and Dec MLPS 134. Dec CHI -1 at 4.91; Dec KC +5�at 5.21; Mar MLPS -2 at 5.88.

USDA World Crop Highlights

Changes from last month's report.

WHEAT

Canada crop upped from 27.3mmt to 28.61mmt.

Argy crop dropped from 11mmt to 10.5mmt.

China wheat left unch at 113mmt.

EU-27 wheat increased slightly from 150.6mmt to 150.9mmt.

CORN

South Africam crop reduced 1mmt to 10.5mmt.

Argy crop unchanged

Braz crop dropped 1.5mmt to 53.5mmt.

China crop increased 4mmt to 160.0mmt

SOYBEANS

Braz crop dropped 1mmt to 59.0mmt

Argy crop unchanged at 50.5mt.

Chinese crop unchanged at 16.8mmt.

USDA US Carryover Summary/Revised Call

For a report that wasn't expected to throw up much in the way of surprises the USDA did their best with corn. Carryover stocks for corn, beans and wheat were all higher than anticipated. In the case of corn MUCH higher.

2008/09 Soybean ending stocks had been expected to be trimmed from last month's 205m bu to 200m, in fact the USDA left them unchanged.

2008/09 Wheat ending stocks were expected to come in at 596m bu, down slightly from 603m last month, in fact the USDA raised them to 623m bu.

2008/09 Corn ending stocks were expected to increase due to slower exports and waning ethanol demand. Stocks were called up from 1.124 billion bu last month to 1.232 billion this month, in fact the USDA raised them to a whopping 1.474 billion.

The soy figure was there or thereabouts, wheat a bit on the high side, but corn was much worse than feared.

Revised calls for this afternoon's CBOT session: Corn Down 15-20c; Wheat Down 5-10c; Soy Unch.

USDA Weekly Export Sales

The latest USDA weekly export sales report for the week ended 4th Dec stated the following quantities (trade estimates):

Wheat: Net sales of 239,300 (250-350,000) metric tons.

Corn: Net sales of 1,058,700 (650-850,000) MT including 130,000 MT for MY 2009/10.

Soybeans: Net sales of 811,800 (550-750,000) MT including 2,000 MT for MY 2009/10.

Soybean Meal: Net sales of 18,500 (75-125,000) MT --a marketing-year low-- included 100 MT for 2009/10.

Soybean Oil: Net sales of 400 (5-10,000) MT.

Another poor week for wheat, perhaps indicating that recent dollar strength and plunging freight are impacting upon US competitiveness abroad. A solid performance from beans and corn.

Iconic Northern Bakery Goes Into Administration

THE iconic John Pimblett & Sons bakery in St Helens has closed with the loss of 60 jobs after its parent company collapsed.

Pimblett’s, famous for its pies, went into administration after it was hit by a combination of falling consumer spending and rising food prices.

Its 10 high street stores were immediately sold to Leigh-based rival Waterfield’s Bakery, saving 80 jobs, but Pimblett’s bakery has been closed.

The company was founded in 1921 by John and Mary Pimblett and is one of the most famous companies in the town.

Paul Flint, director at KPMG Restructuring in Manchester and joint administrator at Pimblett’s, said: "The tough trading conditions, coupled with rising food prices, have unfortunately led to John Pimblett & Sons being placed into administration.

"While we are pleased to have saved approximately half of the jobs with the sale of the shops to Waterfield’s Bakery, it is with regret that we have had to close the Pimblett bakery with the loss of 60 staff."

Third generation Pimblett boss, John Pimblett said: "Unfortunately, a combination of crippling overheads in the form of rising food and energy prices, coupled with tightening credit conditions, has meant that we could no longer continue to operate.

"I would like to stress that over the last few months, every effort has been made to save the company, but the worsening economic climate meant that we were unable to find a buyer for the business as a whole."

Nogger can tell you categorically that Pimbletts made the best steak pies in the world. By a country mile.

Another New Euro Low For Sterling On Vorderman Bombshell

The pound continues it's relentless demise against the euro as bad news pours out of the UK.

House prices, consumer confidence, High Street spending, job losses, manufacturing, Woolies, Corus. If that lot isn't bad enough it's now the Final Countdown for Carol Vorderman.

Hands up how many of you can't read the words The Final Countdown without mentally going der der der duh, der der duh duh duh...

Our very latest new all-time low against the euro is now 1.1244, at 13.00GMT we stand at 1.1285.

At least working out how much stuff is when travelling in Europe is getting easier by the day.

I'll have two from the top and one from the bottom please, Carol.

Sweden Chucks USD3.4 Billion At It's Auto Industry

Just a couple of hours after the US House of Representatives announced it's approval for a $14 bln aid package to the US auto industry, the Swedish government weighed in with a similar $3.4 bln package for it's own auto makers.

Volvo and Saab have been appealing to the government to step in and throw them a lifeline after it seems that their US owners Ford and GM, in enough trouble at home, may be unable to do so.

The plan offers credit guarantees, emergency loans and research funds to various Swedish car makers, including the big two.

As with the US deal, the plan still has to be further approved by lawmakers.

The Swedish coalition government said it was not interested in taking part-ownership of Volvo and Saab, both of which are expected to be sold off by their US owners as part of the required US shake-up.

eCBOT Close

eCBOT futures closed mostly higher Thursday, as traders squared positions ahead of this afternoon's USDA S&D report.

No huge surprises are anticipated with wheat and soybean ending stocks lowered slightly and corn stocks rising due to slow exports and slack ethanol demand.

The dollar has been under pressure throughout the morning on ideas that the US auto industry bailout is far from a done deal. And even if it does get past the Senate that's another $14 bln for starters on the budget deficit. On top of that the Fed are expected to cut rates to 0.5% Tuesday, significantly lower than the dizzy heights of 2-2.5% here in Europe.

Even the pound is having a half decent day against the dollar rising to $1.4916, having earlier peaked just shy of the $1.50 mark at $1.4996.

The weak dollar is therefore also supporting the grains complex, as it should make exports more competitive.

Crude is steadier, another supportive influence, $2 firmer at $45.52/barrel ahead of next week's OPEC meeting where production cuts of 2-3m bpd are expected to be announced.

Japan and South Korea have both bought wheat in routine this week, with the latter also buying corn. That aside, international activity remains quiet in the run-up to Christmas.

There isn't much point posting an early call ahead of the USDA numbers due at 13.30 GMT.

EFSA Plays Down Risk To Human Health In Dioxins Scare

EFSA has today published its statement in response to a request received from the European Commission on 8 December 2008 for urgent scientific and technical assistance following the discovery of dioxin contamination in some Irish pork.

The Commission asked EFSA to provide scientific assistance on the risks for human health related to the possible presence of dioxins in pork and products containing pork.

EFSA’s key conclusions are:

• In the most likely scenario, if someone ate an average amount of Irish pork each day throughout the period of the incident (90 days), 10% of which was contaminated at the highest recorded concentration of dioxins, the body burden would increase by approximately 10%. EFSA considers this increase to be of no concern for this single event.

• In a very extreme case, if someone ate a large amount of Irish pork each day throughout the period of the incident (90 days), 100% of which was contaminated at the highest recorded concentration of dioxins, EFSA concludes that the safety margin embedded in the tolerable weekly intake (TWI) would be considerably undermined. Given that the TWI has a 10-fold built in safety margin, EFSA considers that this unlikely scenario would reduce protection, but not necessarily lead to adverse health effects.

I think that the gist is, because dioxins accumulate in the fat of the animal not the meat, to stand a chance of suffering any ill-health you would have to have eaten nothing but pork fat morning, noon and night, exclusively from the worst contaminated animals for the last three months. I thought I was feeling a bit peaky.

Another New Euro Low For Sterling After CBI Data

According to the latest survey by the Confederation of British Industry, UK manufacturers' expectations of factory output remain weakest since 1980, data released today says.

Order books have improved slightly from the five year low posted in October, the orders balance has improved to -35% in December from -38% in November. Export orders have posted a -33% balance, only October’s -37% balance was worse.

Output expectations remain very low , with -42% of the firms expecting their output to improve over the next months.

The pound posted another fresh all-time low against the euro shortly after the release of the data hitting 1.1323, one euro is now worth 88.35 pence, at the start of the year it was 73.35 pence.

Biofuels: You Say You Want A Revolution?

A potentially "revolutionary" technology could soon be deployed to trap waste CO2 from large buildings and use it to help produce biofuel on site.

Origo Industries has this week announced that it has signed a deal to trial its Ecobox technology at Liverpool John Lennon airport with work on the project to begin from next month.

The trial will see CO2 from air handling units on the terminal building filtered through a photo-bioreactor containing algae. The CO2 will be absorbed by the algae, accelerating its development to a point where it can be refined to produce a biofuel.

The airport plans to use the resulting biofuel to run its ground-based vehicles, while the waste biomass produced by the refining process will be passed through a drying process and fed into a burner which will supply some of the airport's heating and hot water.

Origo said that it hoped to be produce up to 250 litres of biofuel a day using the system when it starts operating next summer, and added that should the trial prove successful it had plans for a larger version of the Ecobox capable of producing up to 3,000 litres a day.

It also said that it had ambitions to work with John Lennon airport to use the system to produce aviation-grade biofuel – something of a Holy Grail for the aviation sector which is currently investing heavily in a raft of projects designed to produce plant-based jet fuel.

Ian Houston, chief executive of Origo Industries, said that the technology had the potential to work in any large building.

"The project at John Lennon Airport is an early trial of a system which we believe could have a significant impact on the way companies today can obtain fuel and manage carbon emissions," he said. "If it works there, then why not anywhere?"

The full cost of the trial was not disclosed, but Origo insisted the project would deliver a return on investment within a year.

Dairy Crest Parts Company With MD

The executive managing director of Dairy Crest’s Dairies division has stood down from the board. Martin Oakes is leaving Dairy Crest after almost two years with the company. His position on the board will not be replaced.

Oakes, who joined Dairy Crest from Somerfield in February 2007, has stepped down from the board of directors with immediate effect but will leave the company on 31 January.

In November the company’s shares soured after it issued a profits warning, due, partly, to weaker returns from dairy ingredients. Operating profit in its dairies division had fallen to £2.7m in the six months to 30 September from £13.5m the year before because of higher input costs.

The company responded by announcing it's determination to drive costs out of both distribution and manufacturing in the Dairies division.

Australia: More Heavy Rains On The Way In East

With a deep trough once more approaching from the interior of Australia and masses of moisture feeding into it from the east, more heavy rain is expected over the east of the country Friday and Saturday.

The trough has already brought heavy storms to parts of South Australia, including 9mm in 10 minutes at Ceduna this afternoon. Falls of 50mm or more are possible with storms over SA Thursday night.

On Friday, the trough will move east bringing thunderstorms and 10 to 30mm of rain to almost every district of NSW as well as much of VIC and western QLD.

The heaviest falls are likely to be near the NSW/VIC ranges and western slopes when extremely moist northerly winds get extra uplift.

Falls of greater than 50mm are likely, particularly about the Central and Southern Tablelands and adjacent slopes - a Severe Weather Warning for Flash Flooding has been issued. There is also a Flood Watch current for SA.

On Saturday, the trough will move north, pushing dry gusty westerlies over the south of the country, bringing a hot, dry day to the coast, while cloud and cool temperatures will persist near
the ranges and western slopes.

USDA Report: Analysts See Smaller Soybean And Wheat Stocks

Ahead of this afternoon's United States Department of Agriculture's supply and demand update, analysts expect bigger corn stocks and smaller soybean and wheat stocks.

The average of analysts' estimates for 2008/09 corn ending stocks is 1.232 billion bushels, which would be up around 100 million from November on this year's harvest and a decline in export demand. The range of estimates runs from a low of 1.124 billion bushels, which would be unchanged from November, to a high of 1.400 billion bushels. 2007/08 ending stocks were 1.624 billion bushels.

Soybeans are pegged at 200 million bushels, down modestly from the 205 million bushels in November, with good export demand offsetting a decline in crush rates. Expectations range from 161 million to 215 million bushels. For 2007/08, soybean ending stocks were 205 million bushels.

Wheat stocks are expected to be around 596 million bushels, compared to November's guess of 603 million, on fairly routine demand. Analysts' estimates range from 575 million to 606 million bushels. 2007/08 wheat ending stocks totaled 306 million bushels.

Global Crop Weather Highlights

USDA's Joint Ag Weather Facility has provided the following weekly weather/crop highlights:

EUROPE: Wet Weather Continues
 Widespread rain and snow boost moisture reserves for winter crops across most of Europe, with a second week of cold weather easing wheat, barley, and rapeseed further into dormancy.
 Dry weather on the Iberian Peninsula favors late summer crop harvesting, although rain returns by week’s end.

FSU: Winter Grain Areas Lack A Protective Snow Cover
 Unseasonably mild weather provides favorable overwintering conditions for winter grains in Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus. However, most winter grain areas lack a protective snow cover, leaving crops exposed to potential extreme cold.

SOUTHEAST ASIA: Heavy Rainfall Causes Localized Flooding
 Heavy rainfall in the Philippines and Malaysia causes localized flooding and slows fieldwork activities.
 Showers benefit rice in Indonesia.
 Dry weather in Vietnam aids the coffee harvest, nearing completion.

SOUTH ASIA: Drier
 Dry weather allows flooding to subside and fieldwork to resume in southern India after last week’s tropical cyclone.
 Unseasonably heavy showers in southern Pakistan hamper cotton harvesting.

MIDDLE EAST: Rain Benefits Iranian Winter Grains
 Rain in Iran provides topsoil moisture for vegetative winter wheat and barley.

NORTHWEST AFRICA: Wet Weather Continues To Hamper Western Fieldwork
 Additional rain in Morocco and Algeria slows winter grain planting but maintains favorable moisture for crop emergence and establishment.
 Sunny weather in Tunisia promotes a rapid pace of fieldwork.

AUSTRALIA: Welcomed Drier Weather In The East
 Drier weather in eastern Australia helps dry unharvested winter wheat soaked by recent heavy rains.
 In southern Australia, mostly dry weather continues to facilitate rapid winter grain harvesting.
 Showers in southern parts of the Western Australia wheat belt hamper local winter grain harvesting.

SOUTH AMERICA: Drier In Argentina; Southern Brazil Needs Rain
 In Argentina, drier weather promotes planting of grains, oilseeds, and cotton, following last week’s rain. Winter wheat harvesting is advancing.
 Rain is needed for soybean establishment in southern Brazil. Conditions remain overall favorable for summer grains, oilseeds, and cotton in Brazil’s central interior.

SOUTH AFRICA: Rain Benefits The Eastern Corn Belt; Planting Farther West
 Rain increases moisture for summer crop establishment in central and eastern sections of the corn belt. Drier conditions promote planting farther west.

Dollar Declines On Shaky Auto Deal

The US dollar declined to a six week low against the euro on speculation that the proposed $14 bln bailout of the US auto industry would fail to get passed by the Senate.

The dollar was down across the board, also falling close to $1.50 against the pound, as the US government increases its budget deficit by spending trillions of dollars attempting to revive it's economy.

The dollar fell to $1.3175 per euro, the lowest level since Oct. 30, against the pound it was $1.4989, around 2 cents down on yesterday.

That is just about the only bright spot for the pound, which set a fresh all-time low against the euro today of 1.1361, at 10.45GMT it traded just above that level at 1.1380.

On a trade-weighted basis sterling was at 79.9. It fell to 79.7 in the previous session, its lowest level on daily records kept by the Bank of England that date back to 1990.

Overnight Developments

Grains are mixed, mostly a little easier in the overnight eCBOT market with wheat down 7c, corn 1c easier and soybeans around a cent firmer.

The USDA S&D report due at 13.30GMT is not expected to throw up any major surprises, just a bit of tinkering with exports & ending stocks.

The pound has set a fresh all-time low against the euro of 1.1361, and currently stands at 1.14 exactly.

Against the dollar sterling is a little firmer, with the Fed widely expected to cut US interest rates a half to 0.5% next week. At 9am GMT the pound was at $1.4924.

Japan has confirmed the purchase of 83,000mt wheat, a mixture of US and Australian.

Crude is marginally weaker, 17c down at $43.35/barrel.

Arla Cuts 2008 Profits Forecast 33Pct Citing Credit Crunch, Melamine Scandal

Arla Foods has reduced its 2008 profit forecast by up to 33%, citing the global financial crisis and the melamine contamination of China-made milk products as two of the main reasons.

The Danish dairy co-operative said it now expects its profits for financial year 2008 to drop from an estimated DKK 900 million to DKK 600-700 million.

Arla also warned that its leadership would be focusing on cost saving measures in 2009, without elaborating on what these might be.

"During this autumn, it became clear that the financial crisis had developed into an economic crisis with consumers opting for cheaper dairy products and, in certain markets, avoiding buying them altogether," said the company.

It added: "The latter especially has had a strong impact on Arla’s trading business."

Arla also said it was factoring in "for losses in the Chinese market as a result of the melamine crisis."

House Approves US Auto Bailout, But There's No Sign Of The Fat Lady Yet

The US House of Representatives last night approved a $14bn (£9.4bn) bail-out of the US car industry. (Wasn't it $15bn yesterday??)

The House approved the rescue plan by 237 to 170, mostly along party lines.

However, the bill must now go before the Senate Republicans, where the Democrats have a razor-thin majority, who have the power to kill it stone dead.

A number of high-profile Senate Republicans have already said they had every intention of scuttling a taxpayer-financed rescue for General Motors and Chrysler.

This initial rescue package is simply seen by them as the first installment of throwing good money after bad.

General Motors and Chrysler say they risk ruin without immediate aid. Ford says it may need funds in the not too distant future.

Under the terms of the proposed package the "Big Three" have until 31 March to submit plans to the "car tsar" detailing how they intend to restructure to ensure their longer-term survival. By that time of course the money will have already been spent.

It all seems like a very strange "deal" to me, and not one that any sound and rational businessman or financial institution would want to enter into.

Try ringing your bank this morning, tell them that your business is in danger of immediate collapse. Ask for a large sum of cash upfront today, and tell them you are about to start writing a business plan detailing how you are going to turn things around. You can let them have a copy by, oh say the end of March.

Fed: The Zero Option

The Federal Reserve is expected to cut rates again at the end of a two-day policy meeting next Tuesday and could be on the road to zero, according to some analysts.

That makes interest rates this side of the pond look positively tempting (for now).

The Fed has so far cut rates from 5.25% to 1% in just 15 months.

In a key speech on Dec. 1, Fed chief Ben Bernanke promised vigorous action to combat the economic downturn. Analysts believe that means a minimum cut on Dec. 16 of a half-a percentage point to 0.5%.

For some Fed watchers, "vigorous action" translates into a policy that includea cutting the funds rate to the lowest feasible level and more "nontraditional" steps like buying more debt to lower interest rates and unclog markets.

Roquette Sees Potential In Microalgae

As part of its 40 million euro a year R&D investment programme, starch giant Roquette is planning an extra focus on microalgae as a nutritional ingredient.

Company Chairman Marc Roquette said: "We have added microalgae as a new raw material".

"We have the objective of becoming a major player in the domain of microalgae serving nutrition and health", he added.

He argues that microalgae has a huge potential for nutrition and health and is an abundant and natural resource. Furthermore, microalgae is rich in protein, antioxidants, fibre, vitamins and omega-3.

Roquette is collaborating with INRA, Pierre Fabre, IFREMER and specialised start-up companies. The company is expecting that products containing microalgae could hit the market in 3 or 4 years time.

EU Wheat Ends Higher

EU wheat futures closed higher Wednesday in a continued consolidation from last week's lows.

March Paris milling wheat futures ended up EUR3 at EUR129/tonne, and May London feed wheat closed up GBP1.55 at GBP97.80/tonne.

There's still not a great deal of fresh news about. Farmer selling remains light at least until after Christmas.

The pound hit a fresh all-time low against the euro, sub-EUR1.14 which should help UK exports remain competitive. Reports of UK wheat being shipped to such unlikely destinations as France and the US would appear to confirm that sterling, and low freight, is helping dispose of a hefty surplus crop this year.

Strategie Grains said that next year's UK soft wheat crop will be around 8% down on 2008/09 at just over 16mmt.

ONIGC confirmed the French 2008/09 soft wheat crop at 37.321mmt.

They also said that French corn ending stocks for 2008/09 will be 3.5mmt, up from last month's estimate of 3.0mmt.

CBOT Closing Comments

Corn

Corn futures had a strong finished in the last few trading minuets Wednesday, posting gains of 14 to 15 cents. The bounce in prices is impressive despite trade looking for a bearish USDA supply and demand report tomorrow morning. Gains were credited to short position covering, softness in the US Dollar, and higher crude oil. Short position holders are seen taking money off the table ahead of Thursday�s reports even though trade is estimating larger ending stocks, (possibly pushing prices lower) in order to clear books ahead of year end. Deliveries issued against front month Dec (which expires Friday) were 667. Dec +14 at 3.26.

Soybeans

Soybean futures also had a strong showing Wednesday marking gains of 16 cents or better in all contracts. Soybean traders are looking for tighter ending stocks than what USDA reported back in November when USDA releases their monthly reports Thursday morning. The average trade guess for soybean ending stocks dropped slightly from Nov estimate (205 MB) to 202 million bushels. The thought of tighter supplies underpinned the soy complex's gains today along with the aid of outside markets. Crude oil had gains of $1.50 for most of grain trading hours and the US Dollar fell to mid $85 range lending support to soybeans. Both Dec meal and bean oil contracts are set to expire on Friday. Dec meal had a mere 1 delivery issued and bean oil had 764 issued. Jan +16 at 8.29; Dec Meal +4.90 at 250.40; Dec BO +1.05 at 30.59.

Wheat

Wheat futures shot sharply higher with support from the bullish commodity theme that took place on Wednesday. Bulls also had some fresh friendly fundamental news with average trade estimates for an 8 million bushel reduction from USDA's November ending stocks estimate of 603 MB. The reduction is derived from exports being shipped at a faster pace than anticipated by USDA and may pave the way for additional sales. Wheat futures, like corn and soybeans received support from outside markets; lower dollar and higher crude oil. Deliveries issued against 1,010 for Dec CHI, 118 Dec KC, and 9 for Dec MLPS. Dec CHI +20 at 4.92; Dec KC +15 at 5.15; Mar MLPS +21 at 5.90.

Arctic Air Poses Threat To US Plains Wheat


Arctic air is set to move into the US Plains next week, putting wheat not covered by snow at risk of winterkill.

Chicago recorded its third 2-inch-plus December snowfall Tuesday propelling the city's seasonal snow tally to 8.5 inches -- the third heaviest early season total there since 1980.

Chicago temperatures are set to warm up next week though, as bitterly cold arctic air masses enter the country by way of the Rockies and Plains. Winter wheat crops in western Nebraska and in northwestern Kansas could face some damage analysts say.

Pound Hits New Record Low Vs Euro, Helps Agri Exports

The pound set a new record low against the euro Wednesday falling below EUR1.14 for the first time since the single currency's inception in 1999, before recovering slightly.

Interest rates have been cut both in the UK and in the eurozone, but they remain higher in the 15-member euro currency area.

The pound was also hit by new data suggesting the UK economy had shrunk by 1% in the three months to November.

Sterling hit a fresh all-time low of EUR1.1384 Wednesday*, and worse may lie ahead according to analysts. In some cases it's already trading 1:1 or less.

Any last-minute-Johnny's buying euros at the airport may be in for a shock. At Luton airport yesterday one foreign exchange desk was only offering a tourist rate of just 1.04, knock off a £4.50 transaction charge and a hundred quid got you 99 euros!

Still, it's not quite all doom and gloom, with freight rates also so cheap at the moment the pound's demise may help us dispose of some of our wheat surplus. One report on Reuters suggests that we may soon be able to export wheat to Brittany at cheaper money than French consumers there can buy at on their domestic market.

In the dairy sector, the drop in sterling has had a "dramatic effect" on the value of intervention, with butter rising from about £1750/t a month ago to £1900/t this week.

The meat sector has also benefited from currency weakness. AHDB Meat Services says that the value of beef exports over the first nine months of the year was up 55% to almost £150m.

* it's dropped even lower overnight, setting a fresh all-time low of 1.1361 Thursday.

FEFAC Comments On Irish Dioxins In Feed

FEFAC President Pedro CorrĂȘa de Barros commented on the Dioxin and Dioxin-like PCB contamination of pigmeat of Irish origin by stating that commercially produced compound feed was not involved in the new contamination case. He noted, however, that "the incident was highly regrettable, because it was completely preventable, if the bakery recycling plant had applied correctly the obligatory HACCP rules in place since January 1, 2006 under E.U. legislation. The use of waste oil as fuel source in direct drying operations at food waste recycling plants as the most likely contamination cause, has been indeed identified as a potential dioxin source since 1998."

He stressed the need to review the possible extension of obligatory HACCP rules for all feed business operators including food recycling plants and home mixing operations under the E.U. Feed Hygiene Regulation (EC) No 183/2005. CorrĂȘa de Barros said official controls authorities can no longer deny that such operations are "high-risk" activities. He said producing feed requires proper know-how and care, and it is the duty of the control authorities to ensure that "non-professionals" do not put a chain at risk. As a matter of principle, FEFAC said it believes that companies holding a waste-processing permit should not be authorized to recycle food waste into the feed chain. FEFAC, in any case, insists that the E.U. ban on the use of catering waste for feed purposes remains in place.

Used Oil May Be Behind Irish Dioxin Problem

Used oil from electricity transformers may have caused the dioxin contamination in animal feed that has led to an international recall of Irish pork products, the Irish Times reported on Wednesday.

The Irish Times, without citing sources, said the contamination may have been caused by waste oil originating in Northern Ireland that should have been stored or destroyed.

UK Grocery Trade: Discounters Gaining Ground

The UK grocery trade continues to see discount chains gaining ground on self-proclaimed "added-value" sellers like Waitrose and Sainsburys.

In the 12 weeks to 30th November sales at UK grocers rose 6.7% year-on-year, the increase being entirely driven by 8.5% food price inflation.

The largest growth continues to come from the likes of Lidl and Aldi, with the latter achieving record sales growth of 25.4% during the period. Although Aldi's share of the UK market is still low at 3.1% that is still it's best standing ever in the UK market.

Of the big four Wm Morrison was the fastest growing at 10.3%, followed by Wal-Mart's Asda on 7.8%, whilst Sainsburys held its ground with 6.1% sales growth. Tesco continues to lose share, it's growth falling behind at 4.3%, much of that being due to it's shoppers switching purchases to it's new cheaper own-label discount range.

For the first time in recent years, Waitrose growth fell into negative territory, retreating 0.7 percent.

Tesco still retains top spot in market share in the UK holding steady at 30.9%, with ASDA second at 16.8%, Sainsbury's on 16.0% in third and Morrisons on 11.8% in fourth.

USDA S&D Report Expectations

Tomorrow sees the release of the USDA's latest S&D report due for publication at 13.30GMT. Here's a note of what the trade is expecting:


2008-09 Carryover Avg Range USDA Nov 2007/08

Corn 1.232 1.124-1.400 1.124 1.624
Soybeans 0.200 0.161-0.215 0.205 0.205
Wheat 0.596 0.575-0.606 0.603 0.306

Ukraine Grain Exports Slowing

The Ukrainian Grain Association forecasts a decrease in grain exports from Ukraine in December of 17% compared to the previous month – to 1.5 mln tonnes, declared Vladimir Klimenko, the president of the Association.

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, and now 1.5 mln tonnes expected in December.

The decrease in export volumes was caused by fall of grain prices on the world market, said Klimenko. Ukrainian grain exports for the marketing year to date (July/Dec08) will total nearly 12 mln tonnes, he added, and will reach 23 mln tonnes for the entire 2008/09 marketing year.

That may be a tall order at this rapid drop in pace, especially given that Egypt has recently said it won't be taking any more Ukraine wheat this season due to quality issues.

They did however pick up a 55,000mt feed wheat order overnight from South Korea at $127.60 C&F (GBP86.20).

eCBOT Close/Early Call

eCBOT grains closed sharply higher on hopes that US and Chinese financial stimulus packages may revive flagging demand for agricultural commodities.

It seems bizarre that soybeans close 22-23c higher on the back of what the US government may do for GM, Chrysler and Ford but there it is. Wheat closed 5-6c higher, and corn up 9-10c.

Asian shares struck a one-month high on hopes governments worldwide will bail out ailing industries and increase spending.

China, the world’s second-biggest corn producer, may issue as much as 5 million tons in corn export quotas to bolster rural incomes, traders said.

South Korea bought 55,000mt South American corn at $155.50 C&F and 55,000mt Ukraine feed wheat at $127.60 C&F overnight. The feed wheat purchase works out a little over GBP86 at current rates!

US Congress may push through a $15 bailout of the auto industry as soon as tonight.

Crude is higher ahead of next week's OPEC meeting, where some swingeing cuts to production are likely to be announced.

There may be some position squaring ahead of tomorrow's USDA S&D report. Corn usage from the ailing US ethanol industry may be downsized. Soybean exports could be raised according to trade whispers.

Early calls on this afternoon's CBOT session: Corn futures are expected to open 10 to 12 higher; soybeans 22 to 25 higher; wheat 5 to 7 higher.

UK 2009 Wheat Production Seen Down 8 Pct

Strategie Grains are forecasting the 2009/10 UK wheat production 8% lower at 16.015mmt, down almost 1.4mmt from this season's crop.

Planted area is seen 5% lower at 1.97 million hectares (from 2.08 million ha) and yields are also seen 3% lower from last season's record 8.39mt/ha to 8.12mt ha.

Amongst the more salient points made are that of the intended area, 10% has still to go into the ground.

I still contend that the balance of probability suggests that final 2009/10 yields within 3% of last season's record is optimistic. A late planted crop, slowly developing due to low temperatures and more than adequate soil moisture could potentially reduce yields, as could reduced inputs due to cost constraints.

Potash Corp To Slash Production

Potash Corp of Saskatchewan has said it will slash 2009 production by around 20%, or 2mmt, due to falling demand.

Most of the production loss will come in the first quarter of the year, after that Potash Corp says it expects demand to increase as stocks deplete.

In the current market I wouldn't bet on it.

Defaults Are In The News Again

Remember the recent stories of Indian palm oil buyers defaulting on purchases from Malaysia and Indonesia after prices halved?

Up to thirty Indian importers were subsequently blacklisted after delaying or defaulting and/or trying to renegotiate lower prices.

Well, now it seems that India too is on the receiving end, with Indonesia, amongst others getting their own back.

Reuters are reporting of South Korean, Vietnamese and Indonesian buyers all defaulting on soymeal purchases from India after prices plunged from around $450-500 to under $300/tonne now.

"The time has come to differentiate between good trade partners and bad trade partners," said one Indian exporter.

Quite right too.

Crude Higher On OPEC Cut Anticipation

Crude oil is a dollar higher at $43.07/barrel at 10.00am GMT ahead of next week's OPEC meeting in Algeria, seemingly building a support base at around the $40 level.

Recognising the need to get tough various OPEC members have issued statements this week using the words "substantial" and "shock" to describe what may be in store at next week's meeting.

A cut of somewhere in the 2-3 million barrels/day region is being mooted by analysts as possibly on the cards.

Billionaire hedge-fund manager T. Boone Pickens was quoted as saying that OPEC will "work it back up to $100," in an interview in New York yesterday.

I'm sure that they eventually will, but what's the time frame in all of this?

"It will all be determined by the global economy. If you get a recovery in the global economy, you will get it back up," he said.

Rio Tinto Slashes 14,000 Jobs

The world's third-largest mining firm, Rio Tinto, is cutting 14,000 jobs as part of plans to reduce its debt by $10bn (£6.8bn) by the end of next year.

The cuts represent around 15% of the company's workforce worldwide.

The company said it was responding to "the unprecedented rapidity and severity of the global economic downturn".

Shares in the miner were up more than 11% to 1399 at 10.00am GMT.

Carmageddon?

The US House of Representatives could vote on a $15bn bailout of the US car industry as soon as today, according to media reports.

The $15 billion package being proposed is substantially less than the revised $34 billion that was requested for last week.

General Motors and Chrysler say they risk ruin without immediate aid. Ford says it can wait awhile, but it too will need aid before too long.

All three are quick to point out that letting them simply go to the wall would result in up to 3 million more Americans on the dole. Certainly all three also appear to have been genuinely shocked by the lack of sympathy from Congress for their plight.

Many in Congress are acutely aware that bailing out the Big Three means stepping over the line that has been drawn in the sand between financial institutions and the rest of commerce. If they step over the line then what happens next?

Only a week ago the Big Three revised their needs from $25 billion to $34 billion. That beggars a few big questions: a) are things so bad that what would have sufficed a week ago, now needs $9 billion more to save it this week? b) if so, how do we know that you won't need another $9 billion next week? c) if you do need $34 billion then surely $15 billion is simply delaying the inevitable? d) what is the criteria now exactly for qualifying for a government bailout? Can any large mismanged conglomerate have one?

Some Irish Cattle Also Found To Be Affected In Dioxins Scare

The Irish dioxins food scare has spread to cattle as investigations continue into where all the suspect animal feed has been distributed to.

Some of the feed was sold into Northern Ireland and fed to both cattle and pigs on both sides of the border.

It would appear that eleven Irish cattle herds have been tested, with eight proving clear, leaving three with dioxin levels "only two to three times above the limits."

In some of the pigs tested levels were 80-200 times above safety limits.

Farm minister Brendan Smith said that "to all intents and purposes this is not a public health issue."

Still, all Irish pork products made since 1st September are being recalled from up to 25 countries worldwide at a potential cost of 100 million euros. Of course our Chinese chums might have adopted a different approach.

CBOT Closing Comments

Corn

Corn futures closed with marginal declines Tuesday. Today's close may give hope to beaten up bulls as bears did not quickly take away Monday's gains and could give further support ahead of USDA reports on Thursday. Outside markets turned softer as the day grew long, crude dropped $1.50 per barrel and the Dow Jones Industrial average was off more than 200 points weighing in on prices and could push prices lower in over night trade. Deliveries issued against Dec were 889; Dec '08 contract is set to expire on Friday. Dec -2 at 3.12.

Soybeans

Soybeans were in range trade Tuesday, initially opening lower with some choppy trade and close slightly lower. Some profit taking from yesterday's steep rallies pushed prices lower along with weaker crude oil prices. Thursday USDA will release their monthly crop production and supply and demand reports. Bearish fundamental news is mounting in South America as the top two soybean producing countries are receiving moisture to benefit crops and soil moisture for unseeded plants. Both Dec meal and bean oil contracts are set to expire on Friday. Dec meal had a mere 1 delivery issued and bean oil had 214 issued. Jan -7 at 8.13; Dec Meal -3.80 at 245.50; Dec BO +.06 at 29.54.

Wheat

Wheat futures closed mixed but all exchanges saw very little changes closing prices from Monday�s. Tuesday was a relatively quiet day compared to the last three trading days with heavy selling pressure last Thursday and Friday and a steep jump in prices Monday. Japan issues for 83,000 metric tonnes of US and Australian wheat for milling purposes. Deliveries issued against 1,373 for Dec CHI, 8 Dec KC, and zero for Dec MLPS as a positive basis is still in tack there. Wheat futures could get a bit of excitement before the USDA reports on Thursday as pre positioning and position squaring takes place. Dec CHI 3/4 at 4.72; Dec KC -1 at 5.00; Mar MLPS +1/4 at 5.68.

eCBOT Close/Early Call

eCBOT grains closed mixed, mostly lower Tuesday, with soybeans down 6-7 cents, wheat narrowly mixed either side of unchanged, and corn 3-4 cents easier.

Futures posted some impressive rallies last night, and the general consensus seems to be that maybe things got a little overdone.

The world economy isn't getting better just yet. With UK retail sales falling in consecutive months October/November for the first time in at least 13 years. UK manufacturing output fell in October by the biggest amount in more than six years official data showed, house sales are still falling and Sony is axing 8,000 jobs.

Crude is showing little change at $44.49 with the threat of "shock" cuts from OPEC next week maybe enough to prevent a fall through $40/barrel for now.

Early calls for this afternoon's CBOT session: Corn futures are expected to open 2 to 4 lower; soybeans 4 to 7 lower; wheat 2 to 4 lower.

Unbelievably, The Cheeky Chinese Have Another New Scam

Not content with adding melamine to anything that isn't nailed down, canny Chinese traders and farmers are now busy tearing the arse out of government plans to help buoy the rural economy by systematically delivering imported GM soybeans against non-GM tenders in Heilongjiang province.

The government recently announced plans to buy up to 2mmt non-GM soybeans in Heilongjiang at 3,700 yuan/tonne ($538), significantly higher than the price of imported US soybeans, to help farmers suffering in the credit crunch.

Heilongjiang is supposedly a strictly non-GM soybean growing region, but where there's a will there's a way. Our melamine-loving chums have merrily been delivering any old soybeans they can get their hands on into state-owned stores, and pocketing a tidy profit into the bargain. Rubbery jubbery.

Irish Eyes Aren't Smiling

Around 1,400 Irish workers have been laid off since the outbreak of the contaminated feed problem, and "thousands" more could be out of work by Christmas, say union leaders.

The largest lay-offs come at Rosderra Meats, where 850 workers have been affected, and given no date at which they can expect to return to work.

Meanwhile the French Farm ministry report that 1,600mt of potentially contaminated Irish pork had already entered the country before the problem was highlighted.

"Let's be honest, a part of that has probably already been eaten," said a Ministry spokesman.

"Let's be honest, you're French, so we don't really treat you as a priority," said Nogger.

Melamine Found In Chinese Soya Expeller In UK

Melamine has been found in Chinese soybean expeller imported into the UK for feed use, warns the Food Standards Agency.

UK feed manufacturers have been warned to cease using Chinese soybean expeller, and have any product they hold tested for melamine. They are further 'advised' to consider quarantining & testing any feed raw material of Chinese origin for melamine.

Similar problems have recently occurred in France and Holland with Chinese soybean expellers.

I've got some organic soya to sell if anyone needs any. It comes in 2m and 3m lengths, pine, beech or teak-effect.

Spot the difference

A cargo of Chinese soybean expellers recently arrived at Liverpool Docks

Supermarket Waste To Be Turned Into Petfood And Animal Feed

Waste food from a supermarket chain is to be turned into pet food in a unique environmental move. Sainsbury's stores in Northern Ireland are the first in the UK to stop food waste going to landfill. From this week waste, amounting to more than 1,200 tonnes a year, will be diverted from landfill and shipped across the border to the Irish Republic where it will be turned into pet food, animal feed and other materials. It is the first step in a commitment made by the 800-strong supermarket chain last month to end the use of landfill sites.

The company aims to have no food waste going to landfill by next spring, and no waste of any kind ending up in landfill by the end of 2009. Lawrence Christensen, head of Sainsbury's environmental action team said, "We are absolutely delighted that from today we can say that Northern Ireland is no longer sending food waste to landfill. This is the first step in our mission to end our use of landfill sites and to ensure that Sainsbury's remains the most environmentally responsible retailer in the UK."

Brilliant idea! Why haven't they done this sort of thing before?

Oh, that's right they have haven't they, thats why 1,400 Oirish people are out of work and 100,000 pigs are about to be slaughtered.

2009 World Wheat Plantings - Informa

Informa Economics projects the global wheat area in 2009 at 222.4 mln ha which is just 1.8 mln ha or 1% below the 224.2 mln ha planted this year.

The area in the EU is expected to fall to 26.3 (26.6) mln ha, in Russia to 25.5 (26.7) mln ha, in China to 22.5 (24.0) mln ha, in the USA to 21.4 (22.5) mln ha, in Kazakhstan to 13.1 (13.3) mln ha, and in Ukraine to 6.5 (7.0) mln ha.

In Australia, the area is expected to increase to 13.5 (13.0) mln ha and in Argentina where drought cut plantings this year to 5.3 (4.3) mln ha.

The wheat area in India should remain unchanged at 28.0 mln ha, they say.

The figures are a little higher than those released recently by the IGC who pegged world wheat plantings down 1.6% to 221.7 mln ha, with EU wheat plantings at 25.9 mln ha.

GrowHow Halts Ammonia Production At Billingham

GrowHow UK has temporarily suspended manufacture of ammonia at its Billingham site, the company said in a statement.

"The decision to stop production temporarily is related to the current situation in international ammonia markets with lower activity and price levels, as well as lower industrial ammonia demand in UK," they said.

The plant has an annual capacity of 550,000 tons ammonia, and will startup again when market conditions warrant resuming production, they added.

Interestingly, GrowHow was recently defending it's UK pricing structure, saying that whilst they realised that the price of urea had fallen dramatically "we think this is a short-term market shift, arising from a lull in demand and the credit crunch."

Yeah, right.

Latest On Irish Plant At Centre Of Dioxin Scare

The food recycling plant at the centre of the Irish pork scare did not have a licence to use the oil that caused the contamination, according to media reports.

Inquiries by officials from the Department of Agriculture have found that the oil being used at Millstream Power Recycling was not suitable for use in the production of animal feed.

Operators are required by law to get a licence from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to use such oil, but the plant at Bunclody, Co Wexford, did not have a permit.

It has also emerged that Millstream is not licensed by the EPA but was working under a waste permit issued by Carlow County Council for the recycling of food. A team from the EPA visited the plant yesterday to carry out an inspection.

Overnight Developments

The overnight market is lower Tuesday morning, on ideas that last night's rally was overdone.

It didn't take too long for the "Obama Magic" to wear off then.

Beans are around 10c easier, with corn 3-4c easier and wheat off around a couple of cents.

Confusion over the full implications of China's plans to shore up the domestic market by buying beans, corn & rice are keeping traders cautious.

Crude is flat, 35c easier at $43.36/barrel. Analysts are now talking that OPEC may attempt to shock the market next week with a production cut of up to 3m barrels.

It is interesting to note that, now that we have become used to crude having a daily movement of $4 say, at current levels that represents a 10% fluctuation. Yesterday's $2.90/barrel increase was 7.1%. Whichever way the market is heading from here, it looks like it's going to do it in some pretty big chunks.

Whatever OPEC say, the market will need to see some major degree of compliance, if we are to see any kind of a sustained rally. It's a supply & demand market, and it doesn't look like it's going to go higher from the demand side of the coin anytime soon.

Sony Corp. plans to eliminate 8,000 jobs in the largest reduction announced by a Japanese company since the credit crunch drove the world into a recession.

Democrats in Congress drafted a plan to aid U.S. automakers with $15 billion in loans. Now they must find enough Republican votes to pass it.

The amount is significantly lower than the $34 billion the Big Three were asking for.

With President-elect Barack Obama’s Illinois Senate seat now unoccupied, the Democrats’ majority has narrowed to 50-49, including two independents. That means Democrats, even if they are unified, must attract 10 Republican votes to overcome filibusters.

Crude And Equities Rise On Obama Magic

Crude oil, equities, and just about everything else was higher Monday following president-elect Barack Obama's NBC television interview Sunday reiterated his commitment to the biggest investments in the US’s infrastructure since President Dwight D. Eisenhower created the interstate highway system in the 1950s.

Crude oil for January delivery rose $2.90, or 7.1 percent, to settle at $43.71 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Libya’s top oil official, Shokri Ghanem, hinted that OPEC could make a "substantial" cut to output at it's Dec. 17 meeting in Algeria.

Chakib Khelil, OPEC president, said on Dec. 6 that the group may make a “severe” reduction in production to stem the 70 percent decline in prices from July’s record.

As we all know, what OPEC says & what OPEC does are frequently two very different things. However, with crude languishing around $40/barrel, maybe this time they will realise that drastic times call for drastic measures.

EU Wheat Sharply Higher For Once

EU wheat futures closed sharply higher for once, buoyed by firmer stock markets, crude oil and overnight CBOT futures.

Paris March milling wheat closed up EUR2.75, or 2.2%, at EUR126.25/tonne. London May feed wheat traded up GBP2, or 2.1%, at GBP95.50/tonne.

Prices regained some of last week's losses with farmer selling exceptionally light at current levels.

Reports coming out of Australia continue to suggest that there has been some serious quality losses due to persistent rains.

Australian durum wheat has risen by $90/tonne during the last week, according to some reports. Farmers who were looking at prices only three or four weeks ago of around A$380 (per tonne) delivered Newcastle, have seen prices increase to A$520 delivered Newcastle, according to commodityonline.com.

With output from Argentina also seen around 6mmt lower than 2007, world wheat supply and demand is looking at tight ending stocks for 2009, with little room for a crop disaster.

The potential for significantly lower yield potential still exists, with fertiliser prices remaining stubbornly high, there is every likelihood that many farmers the world over will cut back on inputs.

Adverse weather conditions, coupled with a lack of inputs, has the potential to slash yields, and final production numbers, in 2009. That would make the global balance sheet look perilously tight come next season's harvest.

CBOT Closing Comments

Corn

Corn futures bounced higher after suffering severe losses last week, gaining 20 to 22 cents Monday. Corn along with most grains opened sharply higher and maintained those gains throughout the day but the question is whether or not those gains can be withheld and develops a bottom or is this just a breather for the bears. Crude traded $3 higher adding support to grains and additional help came from a weaker US Dollar. Deliveries issued against Dec were 1,044 contracts. USDA corn inspections for export were 21.34 MB well below last week's of 37.269 MB. Dec +20 at 3.14.

Soybeans

Soybeans continued higher morning prices and closed above $8 per bushel. Higher crude oil helped boost soybean futures Monday. Fine exports especially to China underpin soybeans as ending stocks are seen around 205 MB, lower inventories and steady demand could help boost futures prices but again fundamentals have not been trading that last month or so with heavy position liquidation pressures prices lower before year end. The US Dollar should hopefully be making commodities cheap enough to attract some global buyers. USDA inspected 40.63 MB vs. 39.88 last week and was on the high side of trade estimates. Jan +37 at 8.20; Dec Meal +8.80 at 259.30; Dec BO +1.23 at 29.48.

Wheat

Wheat futures followed CBOT grains higher in trade Monday with spring wheat posting the highest day gain for the Dec contract of the different exchanges. Wheat like corn had disappointing weekly grain export inspections but was practically ignored in Monday's trade as traders focused on oversold conditions and outside market influences. All Dec wheat contracts are set to expire Friday and deliveries issued for CHI December were seen at 1,991, Dec KC 409, and Dec MLPS 0 contracts as basis is reported being positive there. USDA inspected a mere 12.57 MB vs. 20.61 MB last week and lags last year's pace by 108.2 MB. US winter wheat crop remains in good condition, being benefited with ample moisture and the absence of severe weather. Dec CHI +15 at 4.73; Dec KC +12 at 5.01; Mar MLPS +17 at 5.68.

J K Rowling Must Be Sh*tting Herself

"The World Market for Wheat Groats, Meal, and Pellets: A 2009 Global Trade Perspective"

That'll be flying off the shelves at Amazon this Christmas.

Hurry whilst stocks last: I'm sad, I'll take two

PS: The butler did it & she dies in the end.

Freight Rates Rewrite Shipping Rule Book

Shipping costs have plunged to 22-year lows, skewing global grain trading patterns to the point where U.S. hog farmers are importing wheat from Britain and Japan has eschewed U.S. corn supplies to buy from the distant Ukraine.

In some countries, it is now cheaper to ship grain thousands of miles across the ocean rather than move supplies hundreds of miles by barge or railroad cars.

"Ocean shipping costs are so low that it would be cheaper for south Indian buyers to import Russian wheat than move wheat from north India by train," one European trader said.

Collapsing ocean shipping costs have leveled the playing field for wheat exporters -- who now compete solely on the price of the grain.

Russia and Ukraine have been able to make sales far beyond their traditional markets in Europe and the Middle East, reaching out to Asia, European traders said.

In a recent and closely followed international tender for wheat shipped to Egypt, U.S. wheat freight was $11 per tonne, an insignificant difference from Russian freight at $12. French and German wheat were also offered at $11-$12 per tonne to Egypt.

"Ship owners are giving away bulk carriers at operating costs just to generate cash flow and to pay crews' wages," another European trader said. "This will expand the selling range of U.S., Argentine and Australian wheat in the Middle East market if they can compete against the Russians on (free-on-board) prices."

And while the export season in the Black Sea region is quickly closing, dirt cheap freight rates will allow countries such as Argentina and Australia to be more competitive going forward.

"It is happening all because of the freight rates and I think it will go on for a longer period as the freight market doesn't show any signs of improving," said Vijay Iyengar, managing director of the Singapore-based grains trader Agrocorp International Pte Ltd.

Argentine wheat could makes sales to Morocco and Algeria, which typically buy wheat from nearby France.

"Argentine wheat -- whose quality is slightly better than French -- could very well make it on our traditional markets," said a European trader. "We could see switches on existing deals from European wheat to Argentine wheat.

100,000 Pigs Face The Chop In Contaminated Feed Incident

Irish authorities say oil that was mixed into animal feed could force farmers to destroy 100,000 pigs, according to reports.

On Saturday, the Dublin government ordered a recall of all pork products linked to pigs slaughtered in Ireland, after laboratory tests found the presence of dioxins in animal feed and pork fat samples.

According to The Associated Press, food safety officials have now traced the problem to one small animal-food maker that supplied oil-tainted feed to 10 pig farms in the Republic of Ireland and nine in Northern Ireland.

Currently, officials and police are investigating the possible source of the contaminated feed, a plant run by Millstream Power Recycling Limited near Fenagh, County Carlow in southwest Ireland.

A total 20-25 countries may have received contaminated shipments, including France, the Netherlands and Belgium, according to Irish officials. The final bill for the total recall of all pork and pork-related products such as pizzas and pies is estimated to be in the region of 100 million euros.

The Irish Association of Pigmeat Processors (IAPP), said "We're facing a major financial crisis, a major liquidity problem."

eCBOT Close/Early Call

eCBOT grain futures closed higher, reversing Friday's losses as Asian and European stock markets rebounded.

Soybeans closed around 22c firmer, with wheat up 16-17c and corn 12c higher.

Ideas that Chinese demand will support futures as the government there steps in to buy grains on the domestic market to help boost rural incomes, lent to the firmer tone.

With the Chinese government effectively supporting prices, crushers there may switch their attention to buying US soybeans, wheat and corn, analysts said.

The USDA confirmed Friday a sale of 110,000mt of US soybeans to China.

Crude oil is a little steadier, around $2 firmer at $42.75/barrel on the Obama factor, after the US president-elect pledged the biggest US public works program in 50 years to revive the economy at the weekend.

Early calls for this afternoon's CBOT session: Corn futures are expected to open 8 to 13 higher; soybeans 20 to 25 higher; wheat 12 to 18 higher.

The Cheeky Chinky B@stards #4

Chinese product safety authorities have seized several batches of contaminated European food imports, and are also recalling all Irish pork products following a tainting scare there, the government said on Monday.

Beijing says this is a global issue in which China is a victim too of poor quality imports.

The goods affected included Italian brandy, Spanish dairy products, Belgian chocolate and seasoning from Britain, all of which had been tainted with various chemicals, it said.

Well, we've heard it all now. The world's largest consumer of melamine is a victim too. Bless their little melamine-tainted cotton socks.

Ruvverry.