U.S. grains: Corn, soy rise on short-covering ahead of USDA report

Chicago | Reuters –– U.S. corn and soybean futures edged higher on Monday, lifted by investor short-covering and position-squaring ahead of the monthly U.S. Department of Agriculture supply and demand report due on Tuesday.

USDA said earlier that top soybean importer China purchased 120,000 tonnes of the grain within 24 hours, while analysts at AgRural and FCStone reduced forecasts for the crop in Brazil.

“The attitude is that the Brazil crop size will come down (in the USDA report), that you could see heightened soybean disappearance from exports and a heightened disappearance (for corn) from ethanol usage,” EFG Group analyst Tom Fritz said.

Still, USDA was likely to make only minor adjustments to its forecasts, and global grain supplies were ample in the early days of bumper South American harvests, which follow record-high U.S. corn and soy crops last autumn.

Corn for delivery in March gained 5-1/2 cents to $3.91-1/4 per bushel, the highest level in more than two weeks, while soybeans for March delivery were up five cents at $9.78-1/2 at the Chicago Board of Trade (all figures US$).

CBOT March wheat was up 2-3/4 cents at $5.29 per bushel, capping an “inside day” on the charts in thin volume after notching its first weekly gain in seven weeks last week.

Soybeans reversed from earlier narrow losses tied to weak economic data out of China. The country imported 6.88 million tonnes of soybeans in January, down 19.3 per cent from 8.53 million tonnes in December, figures from the General Administration of Customs of China showed.

China’s overall trade performance slumped in January, with exports falling 3.3 per cent from a year earlier and imports tumbling 19.9 per cent, far worse than analysts had expected and highlighting deepening economic weakness.

Some traders were exiting short positions ahead of the USDA report after U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission data released on Friday showed a spike in bearish bets in corn and wheat. Investors, including hedge funds, had their smallest long stake in corn since October.

“Being short isn’t working, so it’s time to pull out,” Price Group analyst Jack Scoville said of Monday’s grain trade.

— Michael Hirtzer reports on grain markets for Reuters from Chicago. Additional reporting for Reuters by Naveen Thukral in Singapore and Sybille de La Hamaide in Paris.

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