U.S. grains: Corn falls to lowest since October on rapid plantings

Chicago | Reuters –– U.S. grains shed as much as one per cent on Friday as investors sold off positions on the first day of May amid bearish headwinds of rapid pace of spring plantings and a strong dollar that could limit export prospects.

Chicago Board of Trade corn futures fell to the lowest levels since October while soybeans declined from a three-week high reached in the previous session. Wheat prices were mixed, hovering near a roughly five-year low notched on Tuesday.

“The spreads don’t indicate much bullishness,” said Craig VanDyke, analyst at brokerage Top Third Ag Marketing in Chicago. “We have the first of the month and big money is short — they have control of this right now.”

The dollar rebounded from a nine-week low against a basket of currencies. A stabilizing greenback made commodities priced in the currency less attractive in international markets, with U.S. corn and wheat already more expensive in many top export markets in Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

Meanwhile, dry weather and warming temperatures this week provided ideal conditions for fieldwork in the U.S. Midwest and Mississippi River Delta. Analysts expected the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Monday to show corn seedings about halfway complete — roughly on par with average planting progress.

“The market is well aware that we have great weather for planting. We are rolling right along, and we will be wrapped up with planting right on time,” VanDyke said.

Most-active CBOT July corn fell 3-1/4 cents to $3.63 per bushel and CBOT July soybeans settled 11-1/4 cents lower at $9.64-3/4 (all figures US$). Each contract lost ground for the week.

CBOT July wheat finished unchanged at $4.74 per bushel, losing three per cent in the week for the fourth straight weekly decline.

Trading volumes overall were light, with some investors on holiday. Wheat futures in Paris were closed.

Better conditions in many global wheat-growing regions continued to weigh on prices.

“As the weeks pass, the concerns overhanging the markets from a few months ago are starting to be ticked off,” David Sheppard of U.K. grain merchant Gleadell said.

“Both U.S. and Russian new-crop prospects are improving, all-wheat plantings in Canada are expected to be higher than initially thought, and the EU is looking at another bumper crop, with the area planted to wheat in France reported at a record high.”

Michael Hirtzer reports on grain markets for Reuters from Chicago. Additional reporting for Reuters by Nigel Hunt in London and Colin Packham in Sydney.

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