U.S. wheat futures rose 1.8 percent Thursday on concerns about tightening stocks in Russia due to drought that could force the country, one of the world's biggest wheat suppliers, to curb exports.
New-crop soybean futures backtracked from a 2.3 per cent rise on Wednesday as more rains crossed the U.S. Midwest crop belt, and corn prices rose on firm cash markets.
At the Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT), September wheat futures settled up 15 cents at $8.61-3/4 per bushel (all figures US$).
Benchmark December corn ended up 3-1/2 cents, or 0.4 per cent, at $8.07-1/2 a bushel. Most-active November soybeans fell 9-1/4 cents, or 0.6 per cent, at $16.25-1/4 a bushel.
Wheat futures advanced on news from Russia's SovEcon consultancy that Russian grain stocks at farms stood at 15.73 million tonnes as of Aug. 1, their lowest level since 2006. Wheat stocks fell to their lowest level since 2003 at 10.61 million tonnes.
Russian grain stocks were down 18 per cent year-on-year while wheat stocks were down 30 percent after the sales volume increased by 60 per cent.
The data renewed worries that Russia would take steps to limit grain exports. The stocks figures followed two purchases in the past week by Egypt that traders said showed the determination of the world's largest wheat buyer to secure competitively priced Russian grain before a small export surplus runs out.
"It's the same idea that it is going to lead to some kind of restriction at some point on the exports," said Dan Cekander, analyst with Newedge USA in Chicago.
Bullish technical signals added support as front-month CBOT wheat rebounded from a one-month low set on Tuesday at $8.38-1/4.
"We broke out to the bottom the day before yesterday, and just getting back to the trading range probably stimulated some short-covering," Cekander said.
Also supportive was dry weather in Western Australia, the country's main producing and exporting region, that could hurt the developing wheat crop there.
Rains for soybeans
New-crop soybean futures were under pressure from much-needed rains in the U.S. Midwest crop belt that could improve yield prospects for late-planted crops.
"There are people who believe rains will at least stabilize yields and in some instances might even help yields," said Mike Krueger, president of the Money Farm, a grain marketing advisory firm near Fargo, N.D.
Firm cash markets, however, underpinned front-month September soybeans. Domestic soybean processors have been paying a premium for prompt-delivery soybeans due to strong soy crush margins.
Traders were also analyzing acreage data from the U.S. Farm Service Agency, part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, that some said implied an increase in U.S. soybean planted acreage compared to USDA's latest official forecast of 76.1 million acres.
Trade was thin, with estimated volume in CBOT soybean futures poised to fall below 130,000 contracts for a third straight day.
CBOT corn posted modest gains, with nearby contracts leading the way up on firm cash markets in the interior U.S. Midwest.
Worries about the size of the U.S. corn crop continued to underpin the market. A weekly climate report showed the worst U.S. drought in a half century kept a tight hold on top farm states over the past week.
The U.S. Drought Monitor indicated that rain provided some relief to parched farm land stretching from Iowa through Ohio, while other areas including the southern and central Plains were not as lucky and remained parched.
-- Julie Ingwersen covers agricultural commodities markets for Reuters in Chicago. Additional reporting by Gus Trompiz in Paris and Naveen Thukral in Singapore.