U.S. grains: Short-covering supports wheat but corn, soybeans fall

(Stephen Ausmus photo courtesy ARS/USDA)

Chicago | Reuters — U.S. wheat futures rose 1.4 per cent on Friday on a round of short-covering by speculators after price declines in three of the previous four sessions, traders said.

“The big short contingent in the wheat market is definitely something to be reconciled with,” said Bill Gentry, a broker at Risk Management Commodities in Lafayette, Indiana. “We have seen a fair amount of short-covering but there’s still more cleaning up to do.”

Corn and soybeans were slightly lower, anchored by ample domestic supplies, while huge crops from South America lowered demand for U.S. offerings on the export market.

Soybeans hit their lowest since Oct. 21 during the trading day but closed well above session lows. Corn futures have fallen for five days in a row, their longest losing streak since a six-day stretch that ended on Feb. 2.

For the week, front-month Chicago Board of Trade wheat futures were down 1.7 per cent, soybeans were down 3.4 per cent, and corn was down 2.5 per cent.

CBOT May wheat settled up 7-3/4 cents at $5.26-1/2 a bushel (all figures US$).

Some lingering concerns about dry conditions in the U.S. Plains also supported wheat prices despite forecasts for much-needed rains across much of the growing belt in the next two weeks. Traders said some areas could see sharp declines in crop health if the rains do not arrive.

Crop woes in parts of the Black Sea region added to the bullish tone.

A government source in Ukraine said on Friday the country’s wheat crop could drop to about 20 million tonnes from 24.1 million last year due to the effect of poor autumn weather plus less use of fertilizer by cash-strapped farmers in the war-torn country.

CBOT May soybeans ended down two cents at $9.51-1/2 a bushel and CBOT May corn was down one cent at $3.77 a bushel.

The Brazilian government’s crop supply agency, Conab, raised its forecast for the mostly harvested 2014-15 soybean crop to 94.28 million tonnes on Friday from the 93.26 million forecast in March. It also raised its corn production view to 78.99 million tonnes from 78.21 million.

Dry weather forecast for Argentina was expected to allow farmers there to speed through the end of their harvest and add to the already ample global supply base.

“Both of these South American countries are bringing in record harvests, which are just now coming onto the market,” Commerzbank analysts said in a note.

Mark Weinraub is a Reuters correspondent covering grain markets from Chicago. Additional reporting for Reuters by Gus Trompiz in Paris and Colin Packham in Sydney.

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