U.S. grains: Soybeans, wheat fall as coronavirus spreads

Chicago | Reuters — Chicago Board of Trade soybean futures fell on Friday, their ninth straight day of losses, as concerns about the coronavirus cutting into Chinese demand beat back any attempts at a bargain-buying bounce, traders said.

The losing streak marks the longest for the most-active soybean futures contract since a 10-day stretch that ended on July 11, 2014, when good weather across the U.S. Midwest bolstered crop prospects during key development periods.

Corn futures edged higher on technical buying while wheat eased as the coronavirus spread put investors in a risk-off mode ahead of the weekend.

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“The primary market concern is that fear of the virus will drag the global economy closer to a recession, with some key economies likely to go into recession,” Arlan Suderman, chief commodities economist at INTL FCStone, said in a research note to clients. “China is basically shutting down its economy to get control of the virus.”

Chicago Board of Trade March soybean futures settled down 3-3/4 cents at $8.72-1/2 a bushel (all figures US$).

“The prospect of China’s logistics being halted or shuttered for periods ripples through the oilseed supply chain,” said Tobin Gorey, director of agricultural strategy, Commonwealth Bank of Australia.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday it was declaring the coronavirus outbreak that has killed 213 people in China a global emergency, as cases spread to at least 18 countries.

Corn futures ended up 1-3/4 cents at $3.81-1/4 a bushel, finding technical support after nearing Thursday’s low of $3.78-1/2 a bushel.

The corn market also was bolstered by fresh signs of good export demand.

The U.S. Agriculture Department on Friday morning said private exporters reported the sale of 134,000 tonnes of corn for delivery to South Korea in the 2019-20 marketing year.

“Corn caught another wave of export buying, and pushed us higher,” Charlie Sernatinger, global head of grain futures at ED+F Man Capital, said in a note to clients.

CBOT March soft red winter wheat futures were 6-3/4 cents lower at $5.53-3/4 a bushel.

For the month, soybean futures were down 8.7 per cent, their biggest monthly drop since June 2018. Soybeans have fallen in 11 of the 12 sessions since Washington and Beijing inked a Phase One trade deal, with analysts noting skepticism that China can meet purchase commitments made in the pact.

CBOT wheat futures dipped 0.9 per cent in January while corn futures were down 1.5 per cent.

— Mark Weinraub is a Reuters commodities correspondent in Chicago; additional reporting by Gus Trompiz in Paris and Colin Packham in Sydney.

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