U.S. grains: Corn hits two-week high

(Allan Dawson photo)

Chicago | Reuters –– U.S. corn futures hit a two-week high on Wednesday on a mix of short-covering and worries about the pace of U.S. crop maturity, traders said.

Soybeans and wheat futures also posted modest advances.

Chicago Board of Trade December corn futures settled up 2-1/2 cents at $3.61 per bushel after reaching $3.62, the highest since Aug. 23 (all figures US$).

November soybeans ended up 2-1/2 cents at $9.71 a bushel after reaching $9.76-3/4, its highest since Aug. 10. CBOT December wheat rose 2-3/4 cents to $4.45-3/4 a bushel.

Corn posted the biggest climb of the three on a percentage basis, buoyed by worries about slow crop maturity that may slow the start of harvest and leave crops vulnerable to bad weather.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture in a weekly report late Tuesday said 12 per cent of the U.S. corn crop was mature, behind the five-year average of 18 per cent. The slow maturity could delay the harvest, which normally begins this month in the Midwest.

“Yesterday’s crop progress report suggested that corn is going to sit out there for a while. Maturity rates are noticeably behind,” said Tom Fritz, analyst with EFG Group.

This year’s corn crop is unusually variable in terms of yield potential, and high variability typically leads to lower overall yields, research and brokerage firm Linn + Associates said in a note to clients.

Forecasts called for cool and mostly dry weather in the U.S. Midwest through next week, potentially stressing soybean crops as they mature.

The expected arrival of hurricane Irma in the southeast of the U.S. next week could also hit some soybean and corn crops, although concerns were more focused on cotton and oranges.

The weather worries helped support futures as traders await USDA’s next monthly supply/demand reports on Tuesday (Sept. 12).

“Short-covering operations with the approach of the next USDA report and because of dry conditions in the Midwest are offering support to prices,” consultancy Agritel said in a note.

Additional support stemmed from firm cash markets as U.S. producers slowed cash grain sales, holding out for higher prices.

“If you are looking to farmer selling to pressure this thing, that is not going to happen; not at this price,” DC Analysis president Dan Cekander said.

CBOT wheat firmed in quiet trade but news was lacking. Spring wheat futures on the Minneapolis Grain Exchange jumped 15-1/2 cents at $6.44-1/2 per bushel on bargain buying after a six-week slide.

— Julie Ingwersen is a Reuters commodities correspondent in Chicago; additional reporting by Naveen Thukral in Singapore and Gus Trompiz in Paris.

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