U.S. grains: Wheat down on profit-taking, export fears

Chicago | Reuters — U.S. wheat futures fell nearly two per cent on Thursday on profit-taking and expectations of slowing export demand in the wake of this week’s rally to multi-month highs, analysts said.

Soybean futures also declined as the market consolidated after a run-up to a six-month peak. But corn firmed on technical buying and strong production of corn-based ethanol fuel.

Chicago Board of Trade March wheat futures settled down 7-1/2 cents at $4.23-1/2 per bushel (all figures US$). March soybeans ended down 4-3/4 cents at $10.70-1/4 a bushel while March corn rose 1-1/4 cents at $3.66-1/4 a bushel.

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Wheat was the biggest mover on a percentage basis, with the March contract retreating from this week’s 2-1/2-month high.

“The problem with the wheat is, you don’t have a lot of support on the demand side. So when you make that push (higher), we simply get more expensive than everyone else in the world and we don’t garner any business,” said Mark Schultz, analyst with Northstar Commodity in Minneapolis.

A stronger dollar added pressure, making U.S. grains less attractive to those holding other currencies. The dollar index firmed as a batch of solid U.S. economic data reinforced a theme of robust growth.

Also, Schultz noted, storms in the last week brought much-needed moisture to dry areas of the U.S. Plains winter wheat belt.

Soybeans fell on profit-taking, snapping a four-session advance tied to the threat of rain damage to crops in Argentina, a major exporter of soybeans and the top global supplier of soymeal and soyoil.

Argentina’s Rosario grains exchange lowered its forecast of the country’s soybean harvest to 52.9 million tonnes, from 54.4 million previously, because of the bad weather.

This week’s soy rally lifted CBOT futures to the highest levels since July, triggering aggressive soybean sales by farmers.

Looking ahead, U.S. producers are poised to plant 90.52 million acres of soybeans later this year, topping the all-time high set in 2016 by about 7 million acres, a Farm Futures survey indicated.

The survey put 2017 corn plantings at 90.49 million acres, down from 94.0 million last year.

CBOT corn futures firmed on bullish weekly ethanol data. U.S. production of the corn-based biofuel rose to a record of 1.05 million barrels per day, the Energy Information Administration said.

Export demand lent support. The U.S. Department of Agriculture said private exporters in the last day sold 110,400 tonnes of corn to unknown destinations.

Traders expected USDA in its export sales report due Friday to show corn sales in the week to Jan. 12 at 900,000 to 1.2 million tonnes.

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

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