U.S. grains: Soybeans higher on slow harvest pace

Chicago | Reuters — U.S. soybean futures rose on Wednesday on a slower-than-expected harvest pace and news of fresh export sales, although plentiful global supplies kept a lid on the market, analysts said.

Wheat futures fell on sluggish export demand while corn futures ended narrowly mixed.

Chicago Board of Trade January soybean futures settled up 5-1/4 cents at $8.83-1/2 per bushel (all figures US$). CBOT December wheat ended down 4-3/4 cents at $5.03 a bushel and December corn rose 1/2 cent at $3.67 a bushel.

Soybeans firmed as the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) said private exporters sold 148,000 tonnes of U.S. soybeans to unknown destinations, the second such sale in as many days.

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Late Tuesday, USDA said the U.S. soybean harvest was 88 per cent complete, behind the average trade estimate of 91 per cent and the five-year average of 93 per cent.

Additional support stemmed from firming cash values in the Midwest interior as harvest winds down and farmers put crops into storage. Some are hoping for a rally if U.S. trade talks with top global soybean buyer China go well later this month.

President Donald Trump is due to meet with China President Xi Jinping in Buenos Aires, Argentina, at the end of November on the sidelines of a Group of 20 summit.

“There are very few farmers who want to sell and miss out on what could be a $1 rally in the market,” said Brian Hoops, president of U.S. broker Midwest Market Solutions.

CBOT corn futures found underlying support from a slow U.S. harvest pace and a USDA announcement that exporters sold 212,000 tonnes of the grain to Mexico.

But spillover pressure from a slide in CBOT wheat futures capped the strength in corn.

Wheat futures fell after a surprise improvement in USDA’s winter wheat condition ratings. USDA late Tuesday rated 54 per cent of the crop in good to excellent condition, up from 51 per cent the previous week. Analysts on average had expected no change.

The winter wheat crop was 89 per cent planted, lagging the five-year average of 94 per cent. Analysts questioned whether much of the last 10 per cent would be seeded, given the late date and wintry U.S. weather this week.

But traders are fixated on slow U.S. wheat exports, Hoops said, noting the K.C. December hard red winter wheat futures contract dipped to $4.80-1/4 a bushel, its lowest since mid-December 2017.

“That tells us our demand is not there,” Hoops said.

— Julie Ingwersen is a Reuters commodities correspondent in Chicago; additional reporting by Michael Hogan in Hamburg and Colin Packham in Sydney.

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