U.S. grains: Wheat, corn lower in pause after multi-month highs

(Photo courtesy Canada Beef Inc.)

Chicago | Reuters — U.S. wheat and corn futures fell on Friday, retreating from multi-month highs established a day earlier as traders took profits and focused on prospects for better weather in the drought-hit U.S. Plains wheat belt.

Soybeans sagged on much-needed rains in Argentina’s crop belt and worries about U.S. soybean export demand.

Broad declines in commodities added to bearish sentiment. The 19-market Thomson Reuters CoreCommodity Index fell 1.7 per cent as U.S. crude oil fell on renewed concerns about rising crude supplies.

Chicago Board of Trade March wheat settled down 7-1/4 cents at $4.49 per bushel (all figures US$).

CBOT March corn ended down 3-3/4 cents at $3.62 a bushel while March soybeans fell 4-3/4 cents at $9.83 a bushel.

“Wheat leads the way lower in the grains, based on improved moisture prospects for the Southern Plains in the six-to-10-day period. A drought-breaker is not expected, but it is moisture nonetheless,” INTL FCStone chief commodities economist Arlan Suderman said in a note to clients.

Worries about dry conditions in major U.S. winter wheat states such as Kansas and Oklahoma triggered a short-covering rally this month in K.C. hard red winter wheat futures and CBOT wheat as well.

K.C. March HRW wheat reached $4.84-1/2 a bushel on Thursday, its highest level since mid-August, before turning lower.

The run-up in prices appeared likely to curb export demand for U.S. wheat, a factor underscored when the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Thursday lowered its U.S. wheat export forecast for the 2017-18 marketing year.

CBOT March corn fell a day after reaching a three-month peak at $3.65-1/2 a bushel.

Worries about U.S. corn sales to China added pressure. Some Chinese buyers have canceled corn purchases from the U.S. and switched to rival supplier Ukraine, as Beijing tightens controls on processing genetically modified strains of the crop, trade sources said.

Still, front-month CBOT corn and wheat futures eked out slight gains for the week.

Soybeans slipped but the spot March contract stayed inside of Thursday’s trading range. Welcome rains were falling in parts of Argentina’s crop area.

“These showers should lead to only minor improvements in soil moisture across central Argentina, but will usher in much cooler weather, reducing heat stress,” Radiant Solutions said in a daily weather note.

“Dry weather will return to the region next week, but another round of showers is possible by next weekend,” the note said.

Trade were also digesting Friday’s monthly USDA report in which the government raised its forecast of U.S. 2017-18 soybean ending stocks, reflecting a slower-than-expected pace of exports.

— Julie Ingwersen is a commodities correspondent for Reuters in Chicago; additional reporting by Naveen Thukral in Singapore and Gus Trompiz in Paris.

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