U.S. grains: Corn, soy gain on planting delays, relief over NAFTA

Chicago | Reuters — Chicago corn and soybean futures edged higher on Thursday on concerns about weather delays to spring planting and relief that the White House will not immediately withdraw the U.S. from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Solid export sales added support, although both commodities traded lower at times as mild and dry long-term forecasts tempered worries over reduced yields and production.

“There’s a lot of rain and cold temperatures, and all of that is supportive. But as long as the deferred forecast stays relatively dry, people aren’t getting too nervous just yet, hence the tug-of-war today,” said Jim Gerlach, president of A/C Trading in Fowler, Indiana.

Chicago Board of Trade July corn rose 2-1/2 cents, or 0.7 per cent, to $3.69-1/4 a bushel, just above its 200-day moving average of $3.69 (all figures US$). CBOT July soybeans added 3/4 cent to $9.57-1/4 a bushel.

U.S. corn plantings are already slightly behind average and forecasts call for above average precipitation throughout the Midwest through the weekend. But longer term outlooks call for less rain and milder temperatures, forecasters said.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Thursday reported net corn export sales hit a three-week high last week while soybean sales hit a one-month peak, with old-crop deals for both crops topping trade expectations.

A senior Trump administration official said on Wednesday that a draft executive order to withdraw the U.S. from NAFTA was under consideration.

Such a move would threaten agricultural trade with Mexico and Canada, two top markets for U.S. farm products.

U.S. President Donald Trump, however, later told the leaders of Canada and Mexico on Wednesday that he would not terminate the NAFTA treaty at this stage, but will move quickly to begin renegotiating it with them.

Wheat prices climbed on Thursday, led by hard red winter wheat futures, on worries that frigid temperatures in the central and southern Plains could damage the developing crop.

Low temperatures in north-central Kansas, the top HRW state, are expected to be in the mid- to upper 20s F (around -1 to -5 C), according to the Commodity Weather Group.

July K.C. HRW wheat futures jumped 8-1/2 cents, or two per cent, to $4.33-3/4 a bushel. CBOT July wheat rose 4-3/4 cents, or 1.1 per cent, to $4.31-1/4 a bushel while July Minneapolis spring wheat added 2-1/2 cents, or 0.5 per cent, to $5.53-1/4 a bushel.

— Karl Plume reports on agriculture and agribusiness for Reuters from Chicago. Additional reporting for Reuters by Naveen Thukral in Singapore and Nigel Hunt in London.

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