U.S. grains: Soybeans up on trucker strike worry

Chicago | Reuters — U.S. soybean futures snapped two sessions of declines and climbed to the highest in 2-1/2 weeks on concerns that labour strikes in South America could limit supplies to ports during the peak export season in Brazil and Argentina.

Truckers in Brazil began to block roads across the country’s main farm belt early on Thursday after failing to reach common ground in negotiations in recent weeks with the government and freight companies regarding pay and fuel prices.

“On top of the Brazilian strike right now, there’s a threat of a trucker strike in Argentina at the end of the week. That’s helping lift prices in addition to news that Chinese acreage could be down as much as 15 per cent,” said Terry Reilly, senior commodities analyst with Futures International.

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Corn failed to hold earlier gains from strong weekly export sales data and closed lower for a fourth consecutive day, pressured by favourable Midwest planting weather and concerns that an outbreak of avian flu could limit poultry feed demand.

Wheat ended mostly higher on short-covering support.

Chicago Board Of Trade May soybeans rose 7-3/4 cents, or 0.8 per cent, to $9.78-1/4 a bushel (all figures US$). The contract hit technical resistance around its 50-day moving average of $9.83-1/4.

CBOT May corn closed down 1-3/4 cents, or 0.4 per cent, to $3.70-3/4 a bushel, near the low end of the day’s trading range. Short corn/long soybean spreading weighed down corn late in the day.

CBOT May SRW wheat shed a penny to $4.97-3/4 a bushel, while May HRW wheat added 4-1/2 cents, or 0.8 per cent, to $5.16-1/2.

Chinese industry analysts said farmers there could slash soybean planting area by as much as 15 per cent this season due to uncertainty over a new subsidy scheme.

Soybean export sales data released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Thursday garnered a mixed response. Net positive old-crop sales were viewed as supportive to the market, but lower-than-expected new crop sales anchored prices.

Corn and wheat export sales were at or above trade expectations, providing some underlying support to both commodities.

Forecasts for cool but mostly dry U.S. Midwest weather through the end of the month limited concerns about delays to corn planting.

Meanwhile, the spread of bird flu within commercial poultry flocks in the U.S. stoked worries about reduced demand for feed.

Karl Plume reports on agriculture and ag commodity markets for Reuters from Chicago. Additional reporting for Reuters by Naveen Thukral in Singapore and Ahmed Aboulenein in London.

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