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Grain futures – weekly outlook: March 16 – 20

image – U.S. grain futures fell sharply on Friday, pressured by a broadly stronger U.S. dollar and ample global suppliesOn the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, US soybeans for May delivery fell to $9.7240 a bushel on Friday, the lowest since February 11, before ending at $9.7400, down 16.4 cents, or 1.67%.The U.S. dollar index, which measures the greenback’s strength against a trade-weighted basket of six major currencies, jumped 1.2% to end at a 12-year high amid growing expectations for higher interest rates in the U.S.A stronger dollar reduces the appeal of U.S. crops to overseas buyers and makes commodities less attractive as an alternative investment.The May soybean contract slumped 13.63 cents, or 1.08%, last week, the second straight weekly loss, amid optimism over the outlook for global suppliesThe U.S. Department of Agriculture left its forecast for domestic soybean stocks at the end of the 2014-15 season unchanged at 385 million bushels earlier in the week.According to the agency, global soybean ending stocks were expected to total 89.5 million tons, up from 89.26 million tons estimated last month.Meanwhile, US corn for May delivery tumbled 8.0 cents, or 2.06%, on Friday to close at $3.8040 a bushel. Prices touched an intraday low of $3.8020 earlier, the weakest level since February 25.For the week, the May corn contract ticked down 5.62 cents, or 1.36%, also the second consecutive weekly decline.The USDA said that U.S. corn inventories at the end of the 2014-15 season will total 1.777 billion bushels, down 50 million bushels from a previous estimate of 1.827 billion bushels.The agency also projected global ending corn stockpiles at 185.28 million metric tons for the 2014-15 season, down from a previous forecast of 189.64 million tons.Elsewhere on the Chicago Board of Trade, US wheat for May delivery shed 5.2 cents, or 1.03%, on Friday to settle at $5.0200 a bushel by close of trade. Earlier in the day, wheat prices touched $5.1340, the most since March 2.

Despite Friday’s losses, the May wheat contract rose 17.0 cents, or 3.94%, on the week, as prices remained supported after the USDA lowered its outlook for domestic and global supplies earlier in the week.Domestic wheat reserves in the season ending in May were expected to total 691 million bushels, down slightly from last month’s forecast of 692 million.According to the USDA, global ending wheat inventories will total 197.71 million tons, down from a forecast of 197.85 in February.In the week ahead, market players will focus on the release of key USDA data, including crop progress and weekly export sales figures.Corn is the biggest U.S. crop, followed by soybeans, government figures show. Wheat was fourth, behind hay.

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Gold futures rise amid Greece debt uncertainty

Gold Blocks

Gold rose for the third consecutive session on Monday, as market players awaited a meeting of Eurogroup finance ministers in Brussels later in the day, amid ongoing jitters over Greece’s future in the euro zone.

On the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange, gold futures for April delivery tacked on $4.20, or 0.34%, to trade at $1,231.30 a troy ounce during U.S. morning hours. Prices held in a narrow range between $1,227.80 and $1,236.70.

Trading volumes were expected to remain light on Monday with U.S. markets closed for the Presidents’ Day Holiday.

Futures were likely to find support at $1,218.00, the low from February 12, and resistance at $1,245.90, the high from February 10.

On Friday, gold picked up $6.40, or 0.52%, to settle at $1,227.10 as a broadly weaker U.S. dollar and ongoing uncertainty over developments in Greece boosted the appeal of the precious metal.

Greece was due to resume negotiations with its euro zone partners later in the day after talks on a new debt deal last week ended without an agreement.

Greece’s current €240 billion bailout is due to expire on February 28 and the new Greek government does not want it extended, fuelling fears over a conflict with its creditors which could trigger the country’s exit from the euro zone.

On Sunday Athens said it was confident of reaching an agreement but reiterated it would not accept harsh austerity measures in any new deal.

Greece’s main stock index tumbled more than 4%, while the yield on Greek 10-Yearbonds rose sharply to trade near the 10%-level.

Meanwhile, the U.S. dollar remained under pressure, after data on Friday showed that U.S. consumer sentiment unexpectedly deteriorated in February.

The dollar index, which measures the greenback’s strength against a trade-weighted basket of six major currencies, dipped 0.2% to 94.05, extending losses from the previous session.

Dollar weakness usually benefits gold, as it boosts the metal’s appeal as an alternative asset and makes dollar-priced commodities cheaper for holders of other currencies.

Despite recent gains, prices remained vulnerable amid ongoing expectations for the Federal Reserve to start raising U.S. interest rates as early as June.

Investors will be focusing on Wednesday’s minutes of the latest Fed meeting for further indications on when the central bank may start to hike interest rates.

Expectations of higher borrowing rates going forward is considered bearish for gold, as the precious metal struggles to compete with yield-bearing assets when rates are on the rise.

Elsewhere on the Comex, silver futures for March delivery shed 2.7 cents, or 0.16%, to trade at $17.26 a troy ounce. Silver jumped 50.0 cents, or 2.98%, on Friday to end at $17.29.

Meanwhile, copper for March delivery eased up 0.5 cents, or 0.2%, to trade at $2.610 a pound after data showed that Japan’s economy emerged from recession in the final quarter of 2014, but growth was still weaker than expected, indicating that the recovery remain fragile.

Japan’s economy expanded at an annual rate of 2.2% in the three months to December official data showed, falling short of forecasts for 3.7%.

Copper is sensitive to the economic growth outlook because of its widespread uses across industries.