eCBOT Close/Early Call

The overnight grains closed steadier, with beans around 5c higher, wheat 3-4c firmer and corn up 1-2c.

The situation in Argentina continues to go from bad to worse. Not only has the wheat crop been almost halved, but it seems that farmers have scaled back soybean plantings quite sharply too.

With no rainfall in the forecast this side of the weekend and temperatures in the mid-90's corn & soybean crops are under severe stress.

Current forecasts indicate temperatures climbing into the upper 90's/low 100's range across Saturday/Sunday.

Brazil, in contrast, seems to be enjoying largely favourable conditions, with the possible exception of the far south.

China imported 3.297mmt of soybeans in December figures from their Customs reveal, that's a near 13% increase on the previous year.

Lunar New Year celebrations begin next week, however, so China could well be missing from the market shortly.

Crude oil is around the $43-44/barrel mark ahead of this afternoon's Energy Dept stocks data, which is a day later than normal due to the Martin Luther King holiday. It looks like the USDA weekly export sales report will also be a day late, so that won't be out until tomorrow.

It is interesting to note that there is now only a spread of around $2 between spot March and April. The differential between the front and second month had been running at $6-7 before the Feb contract expired.

Early calls for this afternoon's CBOT session: Corn futures are expected to open 1 to 2 higher; soybeans 4 to 6 higher; wheat up 2 to 4.