U.S. grains: Wheat falls from three-week high

Chicago | Reuters — U.S. wheat futures dropped two per cent on Monday on technical selling and profit-taking after touching three-week highs last week, while traders eyed an eagerly awaited series of government reports on crops due on Tuesday.

Corn and soybeans also fell, with declines in broader commodities markets amid fresh investor concerns about China weighing on prices.

World stocks fell to near 2-1/2-year lows on Monday as a fresh pounding for China’s markets left Asia at a four-year trough and sent commodity markets sprawling again. Crude oil tumbled about five per cent to 12-year lows.

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Grain traders were squaring positions in the run-up to widely followed U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports, which are expected to show cuts in corn use, ample global grain supplies and the lowest U.S. winter wheat plantings in years.

“(Tuesday’s) reports are the overall theme of trade today,” said Rich Nelson, chief strategist with consultancy Allendale Inc.

A USDA announcement of 368,000 tonnes of U.S. soybean export sales and 152,400 tonnes of corn sales lifted prices earlier in the day, but that support soon faded.

“The trade realizes that we’re still going to eke out some sales here and there. But as a whole, nobody is thinking this is the beginning of a resurgence of export sales,” Nelson said.

Chicago Board of Trade March wheat fell 9-1/2 cents, or two per cent, to $4.69 a bushel, breaking a four-session streak of gains (all figures US$). The contract earlier hit its highest since Dec. 22 at $4.81-1/2.

CBOT March corn fell 5-1/4 cents, or 1.5 per cent, to $3.50 a bushel and March soybeans shed four cents, or 0.5 per cent, to $8.61-1/4 a bushel.

Grain markets remain weighed down by ample global supplies, despite robust Chinese demand and growing import needs in Africa and India due to El Niño-related weather effects.

Forecasts for milder weather in the central and southern U.S. Plains wheat belt later this week following a weekend cold snap pressured prices for the grain.

Wheat markets are also watching developments in Egypt, the world’s biggest wheat buyer, where payment delays and moves to tighten import rules have created uncertainty for exporters.

Karl Plume reports on agriculture and ag commodity markets for Reuters from Chicago. Additional reporting by Colin Packham in Sydney and Gus Trompiz in Paris.

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