eCBOT Close, Early Call

eCBOT grains closed lower with beans around 16-17 cents easier, and corn & wheat off around 3 cents or so.

The first confirmed case of swine flu in mainland China spooked the market a little this morning. The Chinese national travelled from St Louis to Tokyo, then to Beijing and finally landed in Chengdu on Saturday.

It seems that, having faced severe criticism in the past for failing to act quickly on health scares, the Chinese government were swift to pack the guy (a student - what a surprise) off to an infectious diseases hospital in Chengdu and quarantine the rest of the passengers on his flight.

It sparked fears of reduced pork consumption, according to some of the media newswires, prompting a market sell-off this morning.

Of far more pressing importance to my mind is tomorrows USDA production and S&D numbers. I think that at least some of this morning's decline can be attributed to profit-taking and book-squaring ahead of that.

The first number to look for tomorrow will be old crop 2008/09 bean ending stocks, with the average trade guess saying they will fall to 130 million bushels. In the wake of the recent very strong pace of Chinese exports some are saying that this figure could fall below 100 million. That would be very tight indeed, especially given the prospect of late plantings equalling a late harvest.

Remember how tight things got last September? Limitless and expiring September 2008soybeans posted an astonishing gain of 274c on the last day of trading as delivery wasn't an option for short sellers getting squeezed by a lack of physical beans.

Another number of interest will be the latest winter wheat production estimate in the light of last week's crop tour assessment of the Kansas crop. The average trade guess is 1.526 billion bushels, down sharply from 1.868 billion a year ago.

Before we get that information, tonight we will have the planting progress estimates with corn expected to be around 45-50% complete, up from 33% a week ago, but still well behind the five year average of 72% done. Soybeans are expected around 14-15% complete.

Of more interest than that may be spring wheat plantings, particularly in North Dakota which had only manged to get 3% of its planting done by last weekend, compared to 51% normally at this time of year.

Outside market influences are bearish today with crude oil $1.37 lower and Wall Street expected to open a little easier as investors turn cautious on recovery prospects.

Early calls for this afternoon's CBOT session: Corn futures expected to open 2 to 3 lower; soybeans 16 to 18 lower; wheat 3 to 5 lower.