U.S. grains: Wheat hits two-week high on Plains drought conditions

Chicago | Reuters — U.S. wheat rose for the fifth straight session, climbing to a two-week high on Monday on concerns that drought conditions in the southern Plains could cut yields before an annual crop tour this week in the top-growing state of Kansas, analysts said.

Corn futures advanced to a nearly three-week high at the Chicago Board of Trade as soggy fields in the Midwest prevented farmers from planting seeds while soybeans jumped on tight U.S. supplies.

But wheat and corn futures each traded in both positive and negative territory as crop-friendly rain fell in Asia, Europe and Australia.

“You have the bulls running with it — they’re trying to rally the market — but the fundamentals will put the top on it,” said an analyst at the Traders Group in Chicago.

Most-active CBOT July wheat edged 1/4 cent higher to $7.08-1/2 per bushel after earlier falling by as much as one per cent (all figures US$). Kansas City Board of Trade July wheat gained seven cents to $7.87-1/2.

The higher wheat prices came before the U.S. Agriculture Department said after the close of trading that the condition of the U.S. winter wheat crop was 33 percent good to excellent, down one percentage point from a week ago.

A tour of crop fields hosted by the Wheat Quality Council will kick off on Tuesday in Manhattan, Kansas, and will estimate production for the HRW wheat crop on Friday.

The Plains region remains under severe or worse drought conditions even as showers were forecast elsewhere in the world.

“Globally, we’ve had really great weather in a lot of areas — key rains in Australia, China and the FSU (former Soviet Union),” said Austin Damiani, an analyst at Frontier Futures in Minneapolis. “The big picture is that the world wheat prospects are better today than last week.”

Growing areas in western Australia received widespread weekend rains while showers were forecast for most of the next 10 days in Europe and FSU crop areas, improving soil moisture for the wheat and corn crops there, the Commodity Weather Group said in a note to clients.

Tornadoes killed at least 16 people in Arkansas, Oklahoma and Iowa on Sunday. The storms also halted fieldwork in much of the U.S. Corn Belt, delaying already behind-schedule spring sowings.

Corn plantings lag

The pace of U.S. corn planting remained behind normal as of Sunday despite a week of mild weather that spurred the season’s most active field work to date, according to government weekly crop progress data.

U.S. farmers have planted 19 per cent of their 2014 corn crop as of April 27, behind the five-year average of 28 per cent, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said in its third crop progress report of the season. Analysts polled by Reuters ahead of the closely watched report expected corn, on average, to be 21

per cent seeded.

CBOT July corn edged up one cent to finish at $5.13-3/4 before the release of the report. Soybeans for July delivery rose 5-3/4 cents to $15.

“We need the weather to start cooperating, but it looks like we’re going to remain on the moist side for much of the week,” said Shawn McCambridge, a grains analyst with Jefferies Bache in Chicago.

— Michael Hirtzer reports on ag commodity markets for Reuters from Chicago. Additional reporting for Reuters by Gus Trompiz in Paris and Naveen Thukral in Singapore.

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