U.S. grains: Wheat sags as weak exports, firm dollar prompt fund selling

Chicago | Reuters – U.S. wheat futures fell more than 2 percent on Thursday, with the benchmark December contract on the Chicago Board of Trade hitting its lowest in nine months, as sluggish export demand and a strong dollar prompted fund liquidation, analysts said.

Corn and soybean futures also sank on poor weekly U.S. export sales data coupled with seasonal pressure from the advancing U.S. harvest.

CBOT December wheat settled down 12-1/4 cents at $4.87-1/4 per bushel after dipping to $4.85-1/2, the contract’s lowest level since Jan. 24 and the lowest for a most active wheat contract since mid-July.

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CBOT December corn ended down 7-1/4 cents at $3.61 a bushel after hitting a two-week low at $3.60-1/2.

November soybeans fell 8-1/2 cents to $8.41-3/4 a bushel after recording a one-month low at $8.40.

Wheat posted the biggest declines on a percentage basis as strength in the dollar added to concerns about export demand for U.S. supplies. The worries persisted even as the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s weekly U.S. wheat export sales figure, at 442,500 tonnes for the current crop year, was in line with trade expectations.

“It’s still not enough to make a market. Lower prices are all about trying to find demand, and we’re not finding it,” said Tom Fritz, a partner with EFG Group in Chicago. Technical selling added to the slide as CBOT December wheat broke below its July low of $4.90, Fritz said, adding: “You are in the process of blowing out every long in there.”

Increased projections of Russia’s grain harvest and export surplus have raised doubts about Russian wheat shipments easing in the short term. After the CBOT close, Egypt’s main state wheat buyer announced an international wheat purchase tender.

Results expected on Friday could offer an indication of global prices. CBOT soybean futures sank after the USDA’s weekly export sales figure, at 212,700 tonnes, fell well below trade expectations for the third week in a row.

“You can’t ignore the fact that the business is absolutely dismal, and has been for three straight weeks,” said Mark Schultz, chief analyst at Minnesota-based Northstar Commodity Investment Co.

U.S. soybean sales have been hobbled by the U.S. trade battle with China, the world’s biggest soy buyer.

Weekly U.S. corn export sales were similarly disappointing at 377,500 tonnes (old and new crop years combined).

“This is a tough pill to swallow today for the farmer,” Schultz said. Producers in the Midwest are busy harvesting crops this week, Schultz and others said, adding to bearish market sentiment.

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