U.S. grains: Prices steady on short-covering, gain for week

Chicago | Reuters –– U.S. grain and soybeans were roughly flat on Friday, stabilizing amid a lack of fresh fundamental news following steep gains earlier this week tied mostly to investor short-covering, traders and analysts said.

Corn and soybean futures each were unchanged to slightly lower at the Chicago Board of Trade after prices failed to knock out the multiweek peaks notched earlier this week. Wheat was narrowly mixed after sharp losses on Thursday.

Corn gained two per cent for the week, soybeans and wheat each about 0.8 per cent, with ample global grain and oilseed supplies still limiting potential upside in prices ahead of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s outlook forum next week.

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The dollar lost ground against a basket of currencies, underpinning U.S. grain prices that have struggled to compete in recent years with cheaper supplies on offer in South America and the Black Sea area.

“Farmers aren’t too interested in selling, not here or in South America. On the other hand, no one seems to be buying anything,” said Jack Scoville, analyst at The Price Futures Group in Chicago.

“The dollar’s down a little bit, and we appear to be getting more competitive (in export markets). All that’s kind of helping us out a little bit, in stabilizing prices,” he added.

USDA earlier released weekly grain export sales results, with corn sales of more than 1 million tonnes above analyst expectations and wheat and soy sales in line with estimates.

CBOT March corn settled unchanged at $3.65-1/2 per bushel and CBOT March wheat down a 1/2 cent at $4.61-3/4 per bushel (all figures US$). K.C. hard red winter wheat and Minneapolis spring wheat both were slightly higher.

Soybeans for March delivery finished 1-1/2 cents lower at $8.78-1/2 per bushel.

Regulatory data released after the close of trading by the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission showed speculative investors increasing their net short stake in corn futures, and trimming their net short in wheat and soybeans.

“We’re still in a market that is psychologically focused on the current season,” Sebastien Poncelet of consultancy Agritel said. “Crop risks for the next harvest, like in India or Ukraine, are not really making headlines right now.”

Mostly good weather in South America, including beneficial rainfall in Argentina, has bolstered prospects for big corn and soybean crops, analysts say.

Michael Hirtzer reports on grain and livestock markets for Reuters from Chicago. Additional reporting for Reuters by Naveen Thukral in Singapore and Gus Trompiz in Paris.

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