U.S. grains: Corn tops one-month high on strong U.S. export sales

CBOT December 2018 corn with 20-day moving average. (Barchart)

Chicago | Reuters — U.S. corn futures touched their highest prices in more than a month on Thursday on strong export demand and as traders adjusted positions ahead of a crop report expected to show supplies tightened over the past year.

Soybean futures also rose, extending a rebound from recent losses into a third consecutive session. Wheat futures bucked the firmer trend and set a one-week low.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture helped support corn prices by reporting that U.S. export sales last week were 1.7 million tonnes, topping a range of analysts’ expectations for 900,000 to 1.3 million tonnes.

“Corn sales of 1.7 million are just fabulous,” said Jack Scoville, analyst for Price Futures Group in Chicago.

The front-month corn contract on the Chicago Board Of Trade rose 0.5 per cent to $3.64-3/4 a bushel (all figures US$). It traded up to $3.65-3/4, the highest price for a nearby contract since Aug. 20.

Front-month soybeans gained 0.6 per cent to $8.55 a bushel. CBOT wheat lost 0.9 per cent to $5.13 a bushel and touched its lowest price since Sept. 19.

Traders expect global demand for U.S. corn to stay strong, after droughts reduced harvests in rival suppliers Brazil and Argentina. They are less confident in wheat demand, Scoville said, amid competition for sales from rivals such as top exporter Russia.

Weekly U.S. wheat sales reached a six-week high of 657,100 tonnes last week, according to the USDA, topping analysts’ expectations. U.S. soybean export sales were 872,300 tonnes, in line with estimates.

Soybean futures have been recovering from a near 10-year low struck last week that was linked to worries over a hardening trade dispute between Washington and Beijing. The dispute has curbed U.S. soy shipments to China, the world’s top importer of the oilseed, ahead of what is expected to be a record U.S. harvest.

Other buyers, such as Mexico, have increased purchases following the drop in prices.

“The market is screaming at end users: ‘Buy beans,'” said Harry Bormann, grain team leader for MaxYield Cooperative in Iowa.

On Friday, a quarterly USDA report is expected to show corn stocks were 2.01 billion bushels as of Sept. 1, down from 2.293 billion a year earlier, according to a Reuters poll.

Soybean stocks are expected to be 401 million, up from 302 million a year earlier and the largest Sept. 1 figure since 2007. Wheat stocks are seen at 2.343 billion bushels, up from 2.266 billion bushels.

— Tom Polansek reports on agriculture and ag commodity markets for Reuters from Chicago; additional reporting by Gus Trompiz in Paris and Naveen Thukral in Singapore.

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