U.S. grains: Soybeans set one-month low on trade doubts

CBOT January 2020 soybeans with 20-, 50- and 100-day moving averages. (Barchart)

Chicago | Reuters — U.S. soybean futures dropped to a one-month low on Thursday as doubts over the chances for the U.S. and China to reach a trade deal soon hung over the market.

Corn futures inched up, while wheat slumped.

Price movements were limited by uncertainty over progress in talks between Washington and Beijing to resolve the trade war that has disrupted flows of agricultural goods.

“It all hinges on the latest headlines or tweets on a partial deal with China,” said Arlan Suderman, chief commodities economist for broker INTL FCStone.

The world’s two largest economies are trying to finalize a limited deal that focuses largely on increased Chinese purchases of American farm products and the opening of China’s financial services market.

U.S. agricultural exports to China have suffered over the past year after Beijing in 2018 imposed steep retaliatory tariffs on U.S. soybeans and other farm goods as part of the trade war.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said on Thursday that China bought 129,000 tonnes of U.S. soybeans for delivery during the current marketing year, the first deal for farm products to China the government has reported in a week.

The announcement came as the Chinese commerce ministry said China and the U.S. are holding “in-depth” discussions on the first-phase trade agreement and that canceling tariffs is an important condition to reaching a deal.

“There is a lot of uncertainty over the trade deal,” said Phin Ziebell, agribusiness economist at National Australia Bank.

The most actively traded soybean contract ended up 1-1/2 cents, or 0.2 per cent, at $9.16-3/4 a bushel on the Chicago Board of Trade after dropping to its lowest price since Oct. 8 earlier in the session.

Corn edged 1/2 cent higher to $3.75-3/4 a bushel. Wheat fell 1-1/4 cents, or 0.3 per cent, to $5.07-3/4 a bushel at the CBOT.

Commodity funds were estimated to be net buyers of soybean and corn futures and net sellers of wheat at the end of the session, traders said.

U.S. wheat futures remained capped by ample global supplies and signs of renewed competition from Russian wheat after a relatively slow start to Russia’s export season, analysts said.

Egypt’s state grain buyer, the General Authority for Supply Commodities, said it bought 465,000 tonnes of Russian and Ukrainian wheat in an international purchase tender for shipment Jan. 5-15. No U.S. wheat was offered in the tender.

Reporting by Tom Polansek in Chicago; additional reporting by Gus Trompiz in Paris and Naveen Thukral in Singapore.

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