U.S. grains: Export concerns pressure soy

Chicago | Reuters — Chicago Board of Trade soybean futures fell to their lowest in nearly two weeks on Thursday on worries about declining demand from top importer China, traders said.

Wheat futures firmed to their highest since April 10, their third straight day of gains, while corn eased for the fourth time in five sessions.

The grains markets were digesting weather forecasts that called for warming weather in the Midwest that should allow farmers to step up their corn planting tasks in the coming weeks.

Wheat traders remained focused on the forecast for rains in the drought-stressed U.S. Plains.

“Wheat caught a bit of chart buying, and a bit of ‘worry’ buying as meteorologists continued to cut back estimates of how much rain would fall over the dry HRW areas tomorrow and Saturday,” Charlie Sernatinger, global head of grain futures at ED+F Man Capital said in a note to clients.

Chicago Board of Trade May soybean futures settled down 4-1/2 cents at $10.37-1/4 a bushel (all figures US$). Prices hit their lowest since April 6 during the session.

The U.S. Agriculture Department on Thursday morning said soybean export sales in the week ended April 12 totalled 2.132 million tonnes, near the high end of market forecasts for 1.4 million to 2.2 million tonnes.

But USDA has not reported any spot sales this week, highlighting worries about exporters striking fresh deals with the world’s largest buyer of the oilseed amid escalations of trade threats between the U.S. and China.

“Traders appear concerned that no new business turned up so far this week,” Farm Futures analyst Bryce Knorr, said in a note to clients.

CBOT May soft red winter wheat futures were up 1-1/2 cents at $4.76-3/4 a bushel while K.C. hard red winter wheat for May delivery futures gained 6-1/2 cents to $4.95-1/4 a bushel.

Earlier forecasts of substantial rainfall in the U.S. Plains this weekend had led to sharp losses on Monday. But subsequent projections have pointed to limited rain next week, which could keep crops struggling with drought.

“Weekend rainfall to help U.S. winter wheat, but quantity and location as well as potential for rainfall next week still in doubt,” Thomson Reuters Agriculture Research analysts said in a note.

CBOT May corn futures were off one cent at $3.82 a bushel.

Mark Weinraub is a Reuters correspondent covering grain markets from Chicago; additional reporting by Gus Trompiz in Paris and Naveen Thukral in Singapore.

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