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U.S. wheat falls, soy off as weather improves

Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT) wheat futures fell two per cent on Monday, hitting a one-month low after rain and snow fell in the drought-stricken U.S. Plains and eased concerns that the hard red winter wheat harvest might be diminished.

"It didn’t eliminate (drought) concerns but it took a good chunk out of concerns," said John Dee, a meteorologist for Global Weather Monitoring.

U.S. soybean and corn futures also fell, with soy dropping 1.5 per cent on continued pressure from the U.S. government’s bigger-than-expected forecast for global supplies, traders said.

Corn, which was dragged down by soybeans and wheat on Monday, has fallen for seven straight sessions, shedding 5.2 per cent of its value during the losing streak. Soybeans have given up 4.3 per cent in their four-session drop.

"We have a little bit of a hangover from last week’s supply and demand report," said Karl Setzer, a commodity trading adviser and market analyst at MaxYield Cooperative. "It is not so much that the report was bearish, it just was not bullish."

Forecasts for improving weather in key growing regions of South America added further pressure to the soybean market.

Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT) March soybean futures ended down 21 cents at $14.31-1/2 a bushel, settling just above the 30-day moving average after briefly dropping below that key technical level during the session (all figures US$).

CBOT March wheat was 14-3/4 cents lower at $7.41-1/2 a bushel while CBOT March corn dropped 6-3/4 cents to $7.02-1/4 a bushel, closing below key technical support at the 200-day moving average.

A U.S. Agriculture Department projection about the size of this year’s U.S. harvests also added to the bearish tone hanging over the grains market.

Assuming yields return to normal this year, farmers will harvest a record 14.4 billion bushels of corn, up 34 per cent from last year. USDA forecast the second-largest soybean crop on record at 3.335 billion bushels and a medium-sized wheat crop of 2.19 billion bushels.

Prospects for large South American crops caused Goldman Sachs to cut its price forecasts for both corn and soybeans. The investment bank also lowered it outlook for wheat prices due to low demand for U.S. exports.

"Downward spiral"

USDA on Friday cut its U.S. soybean end-of-season stocks forecast to 125 million bushels, below the market consensus. But it raised its global crop year-ending stocks view above expectations to 60.12 million tonnes after a million-tonne drop in Argentina’s crop was offset by a million-tonne gain in Brazil.

"It’s created a downward spiral on soybeans and that is pulling down the other markets," a European trader said of the USDA report. "People were expecting them to reduce the Argentine soy crop by more."

The announcement by Russia’s deputy prime minister that a planned lifting of an import duty on grains would be adopted by the end of March did not move the market, as the measure had been expected to come into force by early April.

The suspension of the five per cent duty could trigger some rare shipments of European Union and U.S. wheat to Russia as the Black Sea exporter tries to curb soaring prices and dwindling stocks after a poor harvest last year.

— Mark Weinraub covers the grain futures markets in Chicago for Reuters. Additional reporting for Reuters by Sam Nelson in Chicago, Colin Packham in Sydney, Gus Trompiz in Paris and Mayank Bhardwaj in Delhi.

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