U.S. grains: Corn touches one-month low, soy slips on bird flu concern

(Lisa Guenther photo)

Chicago | Reuters –– U.S. corn futures touched a one-month low on Wednesday and soybeans dropped on concern that a bird flu outbreak in the U.S. may cut feed demand, as forecasts for favourable U.S. planting weather in coming weeks also weighed on prices.

Wheat was slightly lower as early short covering support faded in light trading.

Chicago Board of Trade May corn fell 1/2 cent to $3.72-1/2 a bushel after earlier hitting a low of $3.69-1/4, the lowest since March 18 (all figures US$).

May soybeans shed 4-3/4 cents, or 0.4 per cent, to $9.70-1/2 a bushel in a second straight session of declines. CBOT May wheat was two cents lower, at $4.99-3/4 a bushel.

Commodity funds sold an estimated net 6,000 soybean contracts, 2,000 corn contracts and 3,000 wheat contracts on the day, trade sources said.

U.S. Midwest weather was cooler than normal but largely free of precipitation on Wednesday. Recent rains recharged soils with moisture but have delayed early planting progress.

“The rains have been a great benefit to the dry soils that are starting to get built back up so there’s really not much as far as drought in the heart of the corn belt,” said Karl Setzer, analyst with MaxYield Cooperative.

Concerns that an outbreak of a lethal strain of avian flu in poultry flocks in the U.S. would hurt corn and soymeal demand continued to hang over the market.

“Soybean and corn prices are still suffering today from the psychological impact of the bird flu discoveries in the United States while the markets were also calmed by the latest figures showing good U.S. corn and spring wheat plantings progress in the United States,” said Stefan Vogel, head of agricultural commodity markets research at Rabobank.

Ample global supplies of wheat and limited export demand for high-priced U.S. supplies anchored wheat prices, but a large net short position held by commodity funds in the market had led to short-covering bounces at times.

U.S. wheat was not competitively priced in a recent international tender by Iraq, and U.S. supplies were not included in a large purchase by top importer Egypt over the weekend.

Karl Plume reports on agriculture and ag commodity markets for Reuters from Chicago. Additional reporting for Reuters by Michael Hogan in Hamburg and Naveen Thukral in Singapore.

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