U.S. grains: Corn up on China buying, flood worries

Chicago | Reuters — U.S. corn futures rose to a 3-1/2-week high on Friday as China booked its largest purchase of the grain in more than five years and as flooding in the western U.S. Midwest raised concerns over spring planting.

Technical selling and profit-taking later pulled corn from the highs, although the market closed with a second straight weekly gain.

Soybeans fell for the first time in three sessions on worries over demand for ample U.S. supplies as Brazilian farmers are harvesting a bumper crop.

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Wheat futures drifted lower in a profit-taking pullback from earlier 3-1/2 week highs.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced corn sales totalling 300,000 tonnes to China on Friday following weeks of rumours that Beijing was poised to make a goodwill purchase of the grain amid ongoing U.S.-China trade talks.

Grains futures were anchored by a broader commodities market selloff and as a firming U.S. dollar, particularly against the currencies of rival exporters Brazil and Argentina, stoked concerns about U.S. export demand.

Flooding in the western U.S. Midwest remained a focus for grains markets as large swathes of Iowa and Nebraska — two of the top three corn-producing states — are under water.

“We’re fading back going into the weekend. There is probably some more upside to this market, but we’re seeing some profit-taking today,” said Jack Scoville, analyst with the Price Group.

“There are going to be a lot of people looking at planting beans instead of corn if they can with all this flooding,” he said.

USDA is due to release its annual planting prospects report next Friday.

A farmer survey by crop advisory firm Farm Futures on Friday said U.S. growers will plant 1.9 per cent more corn acres this year and 3.7 per cent less soybeans.

Chicago Board of Trade May corn futures settled up two cents at $3.78-1/4 a bushel, ending 1.3 per cent higher on the week (all figures US$).

May soybeans were down 6-3/4 cents at $9.03-3/4 a bushel. The 0.6 per cent weekly decline was its third drop in four weeks.

CBOT May wheat ended down 1/2 cent at $4.66 a bushel after earlier hitting a 3-1/2 week high of $4.73-3/4. The contract closed the week up 0.8 percent, its second straight weekly advance after falling in the previous five weeks.

— Karl Plume reports on agriculture and ag commodities for Reuters from Chicago; additional reporting by Gus Trompiz in Paris and Colin Packham in Sydney.

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