U.S. grains: Wheat up, soy eases as China trade talks eyed

Chicago | Reuters — U.S. wheat futures advanced on Wednesday for a fourth straight session as a pickup in export activity and firm cash markets spurred commodity fund buying, traders said.

Corn was little changed and soybeans eased as traders waited to see if U.S.-China trade talks would show the two sides moving to end their dispute.

Chicago Board of Trade March wheat settled up 2-1/4 cents at $5.22-1/4 per bushel after reaching $5.24, the contract’s highest level since Feb. 7 (all figures US$). CBOT March soybeans ended down one cent at $9.16-1/2 per bushel while March corn rose 1/2 cent to $3.86-3/4 a bushel.

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Wheat firmed on fund-driven buying, traders said.

“The funds are short, the basis is firm and the farmer is not selling. And we are getting a little (export) business,” one Chicago-based trader said, noting recent U.S. wheat sales to Nigeria and Egypt, and international purchase tenders by Tunisia and Algeria.

Trade in CBOT corn and soybean futures was subdued as brokers continued to monitor U.S. trade negotiations with China, the world’s top soybean buyer.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Wednesday trade talks with China were progressing well, a day after President Donald Trump cheered investors by saying he could let the March 1 deadline for a trade agreement with China “slide for a little while.”

Mnuchin and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer arrived in Beijing on Tuesday and are scheduled to hold talks on Thursday and Friday with Chinese Vice-Premier Liu He, the top economic adviser to President Xi Jinping.

Trump and Xi are expected to meet “sometime in March,” said USDA Deputy Secretary Stephen Censky at a renewable fuels industry conference.

“We’re all waiting on trade news, and when is the Trump-Xi meeting,” said Joe Vaclavik, president of Standard Grain.

“Otherwise, it’s very slow. And you can’t read too much into a two-cent move either way,” Vaclavik said.

The potential for a trade deal with China has underpinned agricultural futures, given the likely impact on supply and demand for U.S. agricultural products.

“Everything on that balance sheet could change if we get a deal with a large amount of agricultural purchases from China,” said Ted Seifried, chief market strategist for Chicago-based Zaner Ag Hedge.

— Julie Ingwersen is a Reuters commodities correspondent in Chicago; additional reporting by P.J. Huffstutter in Chicago, Gus Trompiz in Paris and Colin Packham in Sydney.

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