U.S. grains: Wheat firms but weak exports limit gains

Chicago | Reuters — U.S. wheat futures firmed on Thursday on technical buying including short-covering, but advances were modest as export sentiment remained gloomy.

Soybean futures also rose while corn closed narrowly mixed.

At the Chicago Board of Trade, December wheat settled up 3-1/4 cents at $4.98 a bushel, after briefly trading above $5 for the first time since Tuesday (all figures US$).

CBOT January soybeans ended up 2-1/4 cents at $8.63 a bushel and December corn fell 1/4 cent at $3.62 a bushel.

Nearby contracts led the strength in wheat.

“It’s largely a function of there being fund shorts in the market,” said Austin Damiani of Frontier Futures in Minneapolis.

U.S. wheat remained relatively expensive on the world market, however, underscored by two tenders held by Egypt this week in which U.S. wheat was not offered.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture this week projected that U.S. wheat exports for the 2015-16 marketing year would fall to the lowest level since 1971-72.

Traders will get a further indication on U.S. wheat exports in weekly USDA export sales figures to be published on Friday, a day later than usual due to Wednesday’s Veterans Day federal holiday.

Soybeans drew support from USDA confirming private sales of 300,000 tonnes of U.S. soybeans to top buyer China.

Also, traders were monitoring dry conditions in parts of Brazil, where farmers are planting what is projected as a record-large soybean crop. But beneficial rains are expected in Brazil’s main soy-growing areas next week.

December corn futures hovered a few cents per bushel above contract lows set Tuesday after USDA raised its estimates of U.S. corn production and ending stocks above trade expectations.

But the market drew underlying support from firm cash values that reflected U.S. farmers’ unwillingness to sell grain at current levels.

“Once farmers get the crop put away in their bins, they are unlikely to get it out and move it into town, unless they are given an incentive. And that only comes through basis improvement, or futures rally,” said Brian Hoops, president and senior market analyst of Midwest Marketing Solutions.

Julie Ingwersen is a Reuters correspondent covering grain markets from Chicago. Reporting for Reuters by Colin Packham in Sydney and Gus Trompiz in Paris.

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