U.S. grains: Soybeans close firm despite trade threats

Chicago | Reuters — U.S. soybean futures rose on Friday, with traders shrugging off rhetoric about escalations in a trade war between China and the U.S. to focus on fresh export deals.

China warned on Friday it was fully prepared to respond with a “fierce counter strike” of fresh trade measures if the U.S. follows through on President Donald Trump’s threat to slap tariffs on an additional $100 billion of Chinese goods (all figures US$).

The U.S. Agriculture Department said private exporters reported that overseas buyers booked deals to buy 588,632 tonnes of soybeans.

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U.S. wheat futures rallied, with concerns about weather providing support for different classes of the grain.

“Wheat started down overnight off trade war talk, but quickly caught a wave of short covering off of talk of more freezing temperatures for the hard red winter wheat, and planting delays for the spring wheat,” Charlie Sernatinger, global head of grain futures at ED+F Man Capital said in a note to clients.

Wheat prices have been supported by concern over poor growing conditions, with frost this week posing another threat to winter wheat in the drought-affected U.S. Plains.

K.C. hard red winter wheat futures, which track the crop being grown in the U.S. Plains, have risen for six straight sessions. MGEX spring wheat futures rose 3.2 per cent, their biggest daily gain since Dec. 15.

Corn futures eased slightly on a mild technical setback.

Traders remained focused on declarations from Beijing and the White House despite the higher close on Friday.

“The market came back after tanking on Wednesday and I think the market had its fingers crossed that they would come back from the edge but there doesn’t seem any sign of that,” Phin Ziebell, agribusiness economist at National Australia Bank, said of the U.S.-China trade tensions.

Chicago Board of Trade May soybeans settled 2-1/2 cents higher at $10.33-3/4 a bushel.

CBOT May corn futures ended one cent lower at $3.88-1/2 a bushel while CBOT May wheat was up 7-1/2 cents higher at $4.72-1/4 a bushel.

For the week, soybeans dropped one per cent, wheat was up 4.7 per cent and corn rose 0.3 per cent.

Corn was also included by China on its list of U.S. goods that could be hit by extra tariffs. U.S. shipments to China are relatively small but analysts said the trade row could reinforce a trend for Chinese importers to source more corn from Ukraine.

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

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