U.S. grains: Soybeans turn higher after dropping to five-month low

Chicago | Reuters — U.S. soybean futures turned higher on Thursday after dropping to a five-month low on concerns about weak export demand and large harvests in South America.

Corn futures ended near unchanged, while wheat futures touched a one-month low on a broadly favourable harvest outlook in the Northern Hemisphere.

Positioning ahead of a three-day weekend fueled the turnaround in soybeans, traders said, with U.S. grain markets closed for Good Friday.

Yet large global supplies continued to hang over the markets, a day after Argentina projected its soy harvest would climb from last year’s drought-reduced crop.

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In the United States, soybean inventories have swelled as the U.S.-China trade has hurt shipments of American soy to Chinese buyers. China instead made purchases from Brazil, which is expected to harvest a bigger-than-expected crop and remain stiff competition for global export sales.

“The fundamentals are not good for soybeans and that means that any little rallies that come along should be sold,” said Tomm Pfitzenmaier, analyst for Summit Commodity Brokerage in Iowa.

Most actively traded May soybean futures on the Chicago Board of Trade rose 1-1/2 cents, or 0.2 per cent, to $8.80-1/2 a bushel (all figures US$). The contract earlier touched its lowest price since Nov. 1.

The most active CBOT July corn contract rose 1/4-cent to $3.67-1/4 a bushel. CBOT July wheat slid two cents, or 0.3 per cent, to $4.48-1/4 a bushel.

Traders, in a weekly U.S. Department of Agriculture report on Monday, will assess farmers’ progress planting corn and soy and condition ratings for wheat crops.

USDA on Thursday reported U.S. wheat export sales in the week ended April 11 that were in line with analysts’ expectations, corn sales that topped estimates and soy sales that were toward the low end of estimates.

“Exports are nothing to get excited about,” said Karl Setzer, operations manager for Citizens LLC, a U.S. grain elevator company.

The trade war between Washington and Beijing since last year has disrupted flows of U.S. soybeans toward China, the world’s biggest importer of the oilseed. However, even in the event of a trade agreement, Chinese demand for U.S. soy may be curbed by the African swine fever hog disease, which has caused severe losses to pig herds in China.

“The news suggests the market is both gaining supply from bigger South American crops and losing demand as China’s pigs succumb to African swine fever,” said Tobin Gorey, director of agricultural strategy at Commonwealth Bank of Australia.

Reporting for Reuters by Tom Polansek in Chicago; additional reporting by Gus Trompiz in Paris and Colin Packham in Sydney.

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