U.S. grains: Soy, corn stabilize after falling to one-month lows

Chicago | Reuters — U.S. grain and soybean futures stabilized on Thursday after a decline swept them to their lowest prices in nearly a month.

Fundamental news about supplies and demand was scarce, leading to a trading session mostly driven by technical factors, analysts said.

“We need some sort of news, especially some bullish news, to turn things around here,” said Brian Hoops, president of U.S. agricultural broker Midwest Market Solutions.

The most actively traded March soybean contract slipped 0.1 per cent to $8.82-1/2 a bushel at the Chicago Board of Trade (all figures US$). Earlier in the session, the contract touched its lowest price since Nov. 27.

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Most-active March corn futures gained 0.4 per cent to $3.74-1/2 a bushel, after reaching its lowest price since Nov. 29 on Wednesday.

CBOT March wheat advanced 0.2 per cent to $5.10-1/2 a bushel, after setting its lowest price since Nov. 30 earlier in the session. MGEX March spring wheat finished up 0.6 per cent at $5.52-1/4 a bushel after dropping to a contract low of $5.44-1/2.

Traders were missing details on daily U.S. grain export sales, which the U.S. Department of Agriculture has not been reporting during the federal government’s partial shutdown.

USDA also postponed indefinitely the release of its weekly export sales report, which was slated to come out on Friday.

Market analysts and traders estimate that U.S. export sales for the week ended Dec. 20 were 1.05 million to 1.6 million tonnes for corn, 1.8 million to 2.8 million tonnes for soybeans, and 200,000 to 600,000 tonnes for wheat.

“Technicals are becoming more of a factor in trade as fundamentals are giving us nothing new to trade with,” said Karl Setzer, operations manager for Citizens LLC, a U.S. grain elevator company.

“We continue to see fund positioning, which is dominating today’s trade, and will again tomorrow and Monday.”

Traders are hoping that Washington and Beijing will make progress to resolve a trade war that slashed shipments of U.S. soybeans and other farm products to China.

China and the U.S. have plans for face-to-face consultations over trade in January, the Chinese commerce ministry said on Thursday.

“We’re moving in the right direction,” Mick Hoover, risk management team leader for MaxYield Cooperative in Iowa, said of the trade talks. “I think we’re seeing a little concern of just the unknown.”

— Tom Polansek reports on agriculture and ag commodities for Reuters from Chicago; additional reporting by Emily Chow in Kuala Lumpur and Sybille de La Hamaide in Paris.

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