U.S. grains: Corn at three-week high on U.S. area outlook

Chicago | Reuters — U.S. corn futures hit a three-week high on Monday while soybeans set multi-month lows as traders continued to respond to a plantings forecast released Friday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, analysts said.

Wheat followed corn higher, supported by commodity funds covering short positions.

“We’re still buying feed grains and selling oilseeds, coming off Friday’s reports. Most of the buying in corn and wheat is short covering while we’re still liquidating in beans a little bit,” said Tom Fritz, a partner with EFG Group in Chicago.

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Chicago Board of Trade May corn settled up 3-1/2 cents at $3.67-3/4 per bushel after reaching $3.71-3/4, its highest since March 9 (all figures US$). March soybeans ended down 7-3/4 cents at $9.38-1/4 a bushel after dipping to $9.37-1/4, the contract’s lowest since Aug. 2.

CBOT May wheat finished up 1-1/4 cents at $4.27-3/4 a bushel.

Corn was supported by the USDA’s projection on Friday that U.S. farmers would plant 89.996 million acres of corn. The figure fell below a range of trade expectations.

USDA forecast U.S. soybean plantings at 89.482 million acres, above trade expectations.

“You’ve got corn trying to maybe buy some acres back,” said Terry Linn, analyst with Linn + Associates.

Corn drew light support from concerns about a slow start to planting following heavy weekend rains in the Mississippi River Delta.

Analysts also noted fund-driven buying at the start of a new month and quarter, along with short-covering. The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission’s weekly commitments report on Friday showed that managed funds expanded their net short position in CBOT corn futures to the widest since October, leaving the market open to short-covering rallies.

Along with USDA’s big plantings forecast, soybeans were pressured by the ongoing harvest of a massive South American soy crop and chart-based selling as the May contract fell below Friday’s low of $9.44-1/4.

CBOT wheat firmed on technical buying, but K.C. hard red winter wheat futures turned lower toward the close, reflecting improving yield prospects for the hard red winter wheat crop following beneficial rains last week in the southern U.S. Plains.

After the close, USDA rated 51 per cent of the U.S. winter wheat crop as good to excellent, compared with 59 per cent a year earlier.

But USDA’s state reports showed week-on-week improvements in crop ratings for several key winter wheat states, including Kansas, Texas, Oklahoma and Colorado.

— Julie Ingwersen is a Reuters correspondent covering grain markets from Chicago. Additional reporting for Reuters by Michael Hirtzer in Chicago, Naveen Thukral in Singapore and Gus Trompiz in Paris.

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