Oil Price Gain as Grains Soften: Market Bits

(story updated with closing prices and more commodities commentary.)
NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Corn prices eased Monday on a bout of selling after popping more than 5% Friday.

Corn for May delivery rose 0.4% to $6.86 ½ a bushel.

"When corn could not hold its limit advance on Friday, it gave the market a sign of being over-bought," MaxYield Cooperative Grain Solutions Team Leader Karl Setzer said in a report.

Corn has been on a rise on rumors that a large, unidentified buyer of U.S. corn in the week ended March 10 could be China, where corn harvests are expected to continue to fall short of domestic consumption needs, though "the story is losing its luster," Setzer said. Corn was also being bolstered by food and agriculture research and consulting group Informa Economics' report that there would only be U.S. corn plantings of 91.3 million acres the coming year, significantly below the 93 million acres that was generally expected. But this morning, Goldman Sachs estimated plantings of 92 million, "a much less concerning number," said Setzer.

Furthemore, Goldman Sachs made downward revisions to its corn price projections, lowering them by 95 cents to $5.80 for the 12 months ahead.

With rumors ebbing and flowing in the markets and the threat of bad weather ahead, the analyst believes that "this is likely just the beginning of what may be one of the most volatile growing seasons the market has ever seen. Just wait until we see any type of adverse weather forecast thrown into this mix.

Grains were softer after hitting technical resistance after a bout of overnight buying. Wheat for May delivery fell 0.3% to $7.21 a bushel.

Soybeans for May delivery were flat at $13.63 a bushel as it received mixed pressures from harvest delays in Brazil and the likelihood of record soybean harvests from South America as a whole.


Crude oil prices rose again Monday after losing ground Friday as allied airstrikes against pro-Gaddafi forces and emboldened rebel forces dampened hopes of the oil export resumption out of Libya.

Light sweet crude oil for May delivery rose $1.15 to $103 a barrel. Shares of oil and gas companies mostly settled in positive territory, with Petroleo Brasileiro ( PBR) up 1.7% to $39.54. BP ( BP) rose 1.5% to $45.80 and China Petroleum & Chemical ( SNP) added 1.6% to $98.75.

A missile was reported to have crashed into the compound where the Libyan leader has been staying during the airstrikes.

MF Global analyst Ed Meir said that supply concerns supporting crude oil prices may be short-lived. "We suspect investors will soon have to focus on the very real possibility that Col. Gadhafi's days are numbered given the formidable array of forces lined up against him, not to mention the equal likelihood that oil exports may resume sooner rather than later -- and under a new government," he said in a report.

Following oil in sympathy was silver, an inflation hedge. Silver for May delivery rose 3.1% to $36.14 an ounce. Silver Standard Resources ( SLW) ended the trading session up 4.4% to $28.65, Hecla Mining ( HL) popped 4.3% to $8.70, Silvercorp Metals ( SVM) rose 6.3% to $13.65 and Endeavour Silver ( EXK) advanced 5.5% to $9.65.


Other currencies were gaining against the Japanese yen Monday after central banks from the Group of Seven industrialized nations coordinated a yen sell-off to stem the run-up in the Japanese currency.

The gains had occurred amid a mass repatriation of funds in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami.

The euro was rising 0.9% against the Japanese currency at 115.295 yen, while the U.S. dollar was up 0.6% at 81.061 yen. The U.K. pound sterling was up 1.1% at 132.189 yen and the franc was flat against the Japanese currency.

Still UBS foreign exchange strategist Geoffrey Yu noted that evidence suggests the action wasn't enough to eradicate yen long clusters in the market.

"Judging by hedge-fund flows on Friday, it looks like there is still considerable doubt over whether the joint action can succeed, especially given confirmed Japanese yen selling would only happen on Friday, March 18th for now, though there is a lot of scope for flexibility in the G7 statement."

Yu has been surprised that the Swiss Franc has not been as heavily bid as one would expect in a time where risk aversion has dominated the markets. "However, volumes hit 121.6% of average so the turnover suggested a lot of stress, especially in EURCHF where aggregate volumes increased by 50% from the week prior."

He recommends being long Euro/Swiss Franc (EURCHF) as a trade recommendation on expectations of sentiment recovery. The euro was rising 0.8% at CHF 1.28665.


The ten-year treasury was falling as the U.S. announced plans to sell $10 billion of mortgage-backed securities and Japan's nuclear crisis looked to be coming under control.

The benchmark ten-year treasury note was falling 15/32, pushing the yield up to 3.323%.

The mortgage-backed securities securities were purchased during the 2008 financial crisis.

"Based on current valuations, the Treasury should be able to earn a profit on its MBS investments while it is raising cash," according to a Royal Bank of Scotland report.

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-- Written by Andrea Tse in New York.

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