U.S. grains: Export worries, big supplies drag soybean futures to new lows

Chicago | Reuters — U.S. soybean futures fell to fresh contract lows on Wednesday, pressured by sluggish exports and worries that rain-delayed U.S. corn seeding would expand the number of acres planted with soybeans, which can be sown later in the spring.

Corn futures firmed as soggy fields around much of the Midwest and forecasts for more rain over the next two weeks appeared likely to keep planting of the grain well behind the desired pace.

Wheat rebounded from two sessions of losses that took prices to contract lows, lifted by short covering and concerns about delayed spring wheat planting.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said this week that 15 per cent of the U.S. corn crop had been planted as of April 28, in line with a year ago but well behind the average pace of 27 per cent.

Above normal precipitation and cool temperatures were expected throughout much of the corn belt over the next 15 days, Kyle Tapley, meteorologist with Radiant Solutions, said in a weather outlook note.

“Without a repeat of the significantly warmer and drier weather seen last year, it is unlikely that corn planting will accelerate as much as it did last May and planting will likely remain significantly behind the five-year average,” he said.

If planting delays stretch into late May, some farmers may switch acres from corn to later-planted soy at a time when supplies are already plentiful and demand for U.S. beans remains uncertain amid a still-unresolved trade war with China.

Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT) July soybeans fell 2-1/4 cents at $8.51-3/4 a bushel after notching a contract low of $8.44-1/4 (all figures US$). All contracts hit fresh lows or were within a few cents of new lows.

July corn rose six cents to $3.68-1/2 a bushel, a two-week high, while CBOT July wheat gained 7-1/4 cents to $4.36 a bushel.

Abundant global soybean supplies, bolstered by bumper harvests in rival exporters Brazil and Argentina, have hung over the soy prices while U.S. and Chinese officials negotiate an end to a nearly year-long trade war that has slashed U.S. commodity exports to China.

The two nations held “productive” trade talks in Beijing on Wednesday and will continue discussions in Washington next week, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said.

A trade deal could trigger accelerated U.S. commodities purchases by China, which would help whittle down massive stockpiles of crops such as soybeans, corn and wheat.

Reporting for Reuters by Karl Plume; additional reporting by Nigel Hunt in London and Naveen Thukral in Singapore.

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