U.S. grains: Soybeans slide on favourable S. America weather

Soybeans fell on Friday for the second straight day and ended nearly one per cent lower for the week under pressure from prospects for bumper crops in South America.

Corn turned firm on a late bout of short-covering but gains were checked by a plentiful U.S. harvest.

Wheat eased on technical selling but the slide was slowed by concern about possible harm to some of the U.S. winter wheat crop from a blast of Arctic air late this week into the weekend.

Favourable weather in Argentina and Brazil created good growing conditions for crops that will compete with U.S. soybeans for export sales early in 2014.

“Even if it starts to dry up a bit, (Brazil) is in good shape,” said Tim Hannagan, senior grain analyst at Walsh Trading Co. in Chicago. “So I think that’s why China is starting to take a step back now.”

China’s purchases of U.S. soybeans remain strong, but have started to slow in the last two weeks, Hannagan noted.

“There’s the fear, for people not wanting to over-buy the market,” he said.

Private exporters reported the sale of 384,150 tonnes of U.S. soybeans to unknown destinations, including 189,150 tonnes for delivery this marketing year and 195,000 tonnes for 2014-15 delivery, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said on Friday.

Chicago Board of Trade January soybeans closed down 2-1/2 cents per bushel at $13.25-1/2 (all figures US$).

“With South American weather currently favourable, the large forecasted crop there is likely to weigh on prices longer term if we have no weather problems,” Jonathan Lane, trading manager for UK merchant Gleadell, said in a market note.

The January soybean contract stuck in a narrow trading range this week as traders cautiously prepared for Tuesday’s U.S. Department of Agriculture report.

USDA’s World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) report, to be issued Tuesday, is expected to raise forecasts for both Argentina and Brazil soy crops.

CBOT December corn futures closed 1-1/4 cents per bushel higher at $4.24 and ended the week nearly two per cent higher.

Gains in corn were slowed by China’s rejection of around 120,000 tonnes of U.S. corn tainted with a genetically modified strain not yet approved by its agriculture ministry.

China is still evaluating whether to approve the strain, a government spokesman said on Friday.

Chicago December wheat futures eased 3/4 cent per bushel to close at $6.37-1/4. Wheat had posted its biggest one-day decline in more than two months on Thursday.

The contract ended the week down 2.7 per cent.

Dealers said the market was underpinned by concern about possible damage to U.S. winter wheat as temperatures plummet across much of the country.

The prospect of larger-than-expected supplies in Canada and Australia has weighed on the market this week along with weak U.S. exports. Statistics Canada said on Wednesday that farmers produced a record 37.53 million tonnes of wheat in 2013, well above market expectations.

Wheat prices came under further pressure on Thursday after the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported weaker-than-expected export figures.

USDA said net sales of U.S. wheat totaled 229,200 tonnes, well below trade estimates for 450,000 to 550,000 tonnes.

– Rod Nickel is a Reuters correspondent based in Winnipeg. Additional reporting for Reuters by Nigel Hunt in London and Colin Packham in Sydney.