U.S. grains: Corn hits 18-month low

Soybean, wheat futures firm

Chicago | Reuters — U.S. corn futures plummeted 3.3 per cent to an 18-month low on Tuesday as traders said current prices were too high to generate demand from overseas buyers with the ongoing harvests in Brazil and Argentina providing cheaper offerings on the export market.

Corn prices fell to their session lows just ahead of the close as the crude oil market turned lower. A weakened energy sector will cut demand for corn-based ethanol, and grain dealers at ethanol plants have already begun to slash their bids for corn on the cash market.

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Soybean and wheat futures were slightly higher on bargain buying, but the gains were kept in check by fears about the global economy staggering under the weight of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Beans opened higher overnight, a kind of ‘turnaround Tuesday’ short-covering move, but lacking in passion,” Charlie Sernatinger, global head of grain futures at ED+F Man Capital, said in a note to clients.

Strength in the dollar, which rallied as companies and investors sought out the most liquid currency due to concerns about economic shutdowns, also contributed to stifling demand for U.S. exports. A strong dollar makes U.S. commodities relatively more expensive on the global market.

“There is just a feeling that we are going to have to align with the South American prices,” said Greg Grow, director of agribusiness at Archer Financial Services. “Corn is being pulled down to the global prices. Beans have already reached there.”

Chicago Board of Trade May corn futures settled down 10-3/4 cents at $3.44 a bushel (all figures US$). On a continuous basis, the most-active contract hit its lowest since Sept. 18, 2018.

CBOT May soybeans were 2-1/2 cents higher at $8.24-1/4 a bushel and CBOT May soft red winter wheat was 1-1/4 cents higher at $4.99-1/4 a bushel.

“The soy complex is leading the recovery this morning, rightfully so in a fundamental sense, but it’s a cautious-looking bounce amid what is reaching a two-week disaster,” Matt Zeller, director of market information at INTL FCStone said in a note to clients. “We’re a long way from the end of the virus panic.”

Wheat futures received some support from a U.S. Agriculture Department report that showed good-to-excellent ratings for hard red winter in Kansas, the top production state for the crop, slipped to 46 per cent from 47. But ratings improved in Texas and Oklahoma.

— Mark Weinraub is a Reuters commodities correspondent in Chicago; additional reporting by Michael Hogan in Hamburg and Naveen Thukral in Singapore.

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