A Quick Christmas Summary

There is no trade today, Monday, on the London market - although Paris and the overnight eCBOT markets are open and trading will recommence on CBOT tonight.

Thursday's CBOT closes saw January soybeans close 1 3/4 cents lower at USD9.99 1/2, just below the key USD10/bushel level. May corn closed 3 1/2 cents higher at USD4.18 3/4 and CBOT wheat ended 4 1/2 cents lower at USD5.24 1/2.

For wheat the big story last week was another set of poor weekly export sales, which at 221,000 MMT was a marketing-year low. For corn however export sales were large at 1.59 MMT, well above trade expectations of 650,000-850,000 MT. As of last Sunday 5% of the US crop still remains unharvested.

Soybean weekly export sales were also impressive at 1,369,100 MT. China took 806,800 MT of that, including 173,500 MT of next season's crop. The US Census Bureau pegs the November crush at 168.61 million bushels, a rather large 17% increase on November 2008.

EU futures were subdued all last week, and look set to do nothing spectacular this week either. The pound is back below USD1.60 which may support London wheat a bit, as too may the imminent opening of the Ensus bioethanol facility on Teesside.

Algeria bought 300,000 MT of wheat of unspecified origin last week, the trade seems to be assuming that it was probably French.

Once we get past what will probably be a low volume quiet week, what happens in 2010 may initially depend on whether fund money returns to the agri-commodities arena.

In Brazil they are itching to get started with the soybean harvest in some areas, but persistent and heavy rains in Mato Grosso are thwarting early attempts. Heavy rains have also returned to Argentina, hugely improving soil moisture profiles in almost all of the major soybean growing areas on year ago levels.

Early season drought, followed by a sharp plunge in temperatures - coupled with a lack of snow cover - may have caused some damage to winter wheat in parts of eastern Europe, although snow has recently arrived to alleviate the risk of further problems. Either way, we won't know the extent of any potential damage until the spring.

The overnight eCBOT market is firmer across the board on ideas that another major snowstorm for the US Midwest across the holiday period will have caused further problems for corn.

Crude oil prices above USD78/barrel are also supportive. US stocks fell by almost 5 million barrels last week, the US Energy Dept said. The recent severe wintry weather and a pick-up in holiday season demand may have added further to offtake.