U.S. soybean futures rose on Tuesday, buoyed by technical buying and worries that recent rainfall in the U.S. Midwest may have arrived too late to provide much benefit to the crop, traders said.
Wheat futures also closed firm, turning higher late in the trading day on concerns that freezing temperatures may harm the crop in Argentina. Corn weakened, setting back from gains on Monday on seasonal harvest pressure.
Bargain buyers stepped in to boost soybean prices after front-month futures fell to $13.05-1/4 a bushel -- their lowest since Aug. 21 -- during the overnight session (all figures US$).
The soybean market was ripe for a rebound as prices have fallen more than a dollar in less than a month, but traders warned that Tuesday's gains might not be sustainable.
"It is tough to tell whether today is just turnaround Tuesday and you are getting a (temporary) bounce after the correction, or if the market really does not want to press below $13," said Garret Toay, risk management consultant with Toay Commodities Futures Group.
CBOT November soybeans settled up 4-3/4 cents at $13.12-1/2 a bushel. Through Monday, soy prices had fallen three days in a row and in five of the last six sessions.
Stagnant crop conditions, and reports of variable yields from the early harvest, helped the bullish case for soybeans.
"Some yields still seem to be pretty up and down," said Mark Schultz, analyst with Northstar Commodity Investment Co.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on Monday rated 50 per cent of the soybean crop in good to excellent condition as of Sunday, unchanged from the previous week and one percentage point better than market expectations.
"This, coupled with the uncertainty over whether the soybean acreage figures stated so far are actually correct or whether the acreage may in fact be smaller after all, is lending support to soybean prices," Commerzbank said in a note.
With the U.S. soybean harvest under way -- three per cent of the crop had been cut by Sept. 22 -- commodity analysts remain unsure about how many acres were planted with the oilseed last spring, making it difficult to determine the crop size of the world's largest producer.
CBOT December corn ended off 4-1/2 cents at $4.48-3/4 a bushel. Grain dealers have said corn yields from the early harvest were better than expected across the Midwest, leading to a surprise bump in farmer selling during the past few weeks.
Farmers had been expected to put into storage much of the corn they had not already contracted to bring to elevators and processors, but the abundant yield caused a spike in fresh sales.
CBOT December wheat was up 4-3/4 cents at $6.58-1/4 a bushel, as the Argentine weather raised the prospects for U.S. exporters to win some new business amid burgeoning overseas demand.
"We've seen near-record levels of exports last week and the week before out of the U.S., and the U.S. balance sheets are certainly looking very tight," said Chris Gadd, grains analyst at Macquarie Capital. "Wheat is far tighter than people had expected."
But U.S. wheat, which is still more expensive than supplies from most other parts of the world, will have to compete with a hefty Canadian crop on international markets, analysts said.
-- Mark Weinraub is a Reuters correspondent covering grain and oilseed futures markets in Chicago. Additional reporting for Reuters by Naveen Thukral in Singapore and Agnieszka Flak in Milan.