BULLS HARD TO FIND IN EUROPE'S ABUNDANT, WEAK SOYMEAL MART

BULLS HARD TO FIND IN EUROPE'S ABUNDANT, WEAK SOYMEAL MART

Soybean meal prices at Rotterdam are expected to weaken on abundant supplies and only moderate demand.

Soybean buyers said it is hard to find bullish factors in the market. ''We haven't seen the price bottom yet," a Dutch feed cooperative buyer said recently in a characteristically downbeat statement.Prices for Argentine and Brazilian meal have weakened considerable since last November. Argentine soybean meal for June-September delivery, cost, insurance and freight, at Rotterdam that sold for $207 a metric in November was offered late last week at $1.88 a ton, down 9.1 percent.

June-September Brazilian soybean that traded at $214 a ton in November was offered at $198 last week , a 7.4 percent drop.

Some traders believe June to September delivery meal could find a bottom at $180, and others feel the bottom may lie a few dollars below current levels, or about $186. Others just cannot tell.

Following a mild winter and an early spring that enabled farm animals to begin foraging outside a month earlier than usual, pig, poultry and cattle farmers have used up less of their feed stocks than usual.

In addition, many soymeal consumers loaded up on forward contracts (June-September) last November and December when prices appeared more attractive. Since then prices for Argentine and Brazilian material have dropped 16.3 percent and 14.6 percent, respectively.

Locked into higher-priced positions for roughly 60 percent to 70 percent of their June to September needs, consumers are unlikely to buy more soymeal unless they feel the market is turning around for certain.

This hesitation, coupled with large amounts of Argentine soymeal on the Rotterdam market and continued favorable news in the U.S. crop, are likely to keep the lid on prices in coming months, traders said. Argentina and Brazil are among the world's largest exporters of soybean meal.

As a result, the pace of soymeal trade in Rotterdam during the June to September period June-September could remain at 15,000 tons a day, with most of that volume coming from shippers and traders.

European soybean crushers are largely resigned to waiting out the current market, but they see dim prospects for June-September sales, given the low prices here for South American soymeal.

"If you have sold enough already, you can just sit back and watch the misery around you," said the general manager of a major crushing plant near Rotterdam. "But if we had to sell into today's market, we'd close down."

For June-September soymeal positions sold last November and December at about $220 a ton, the margin was about $33 a ton, or 60 cents a bushel of soybeans, he said. Under current prices, the margin has fallen to roughly $7.50 a ton, or 22 cents a bushel.