U.S. corn, soybeans climb on Midwest weather jitters

New-crop corn and soybean futures on the Chicago Board of Trade rose on Tuesday for a second straight session on fears that hot, dry weather in parts of the U.S. Midwest later this month could stress crops, traders said.

Wheat rose two per cent as recent export demand from China and signs that the U.S. harvest is winding down triggered a round of short-covering.

At the CBOT, September corn settled up 18-1/2 cents at $5.51-3/4 a bushel, while new-crop December ended up 21-1/4 cents at $5.21-3/4 (all figures US$).

August soybeans rose 12-3/4 cents to end at $14.68-1/4 per bushel, and new-crop November was up 24 cents at $12.76-1/4. CBOT September wheat ended up 14-1/2 cents at $6.77-1/2 per bushel.

Weather was in the spotlight, with forecasts calling for potentially stressful hot, dry conditions in the southwestern Corn Belt later this month as the corn crop enters its critical pollination phase.

Meteorologist Don Keeney of MDA Weather Services said he expected highs in the mid-90s degrees F and no rain in southern Iowa, Missouri, southwestern Illinois, eastern Nebraska, the northern Delta and Kansas for at least the next 15 days.

“It would be yield- and production-impacting weather if we would have that materialize,” said Mike Zuzolo of Global Commodity Analytics in Lafayette, Indiana. “Both corn and bean crops are too small in that region to tolerate that kind of heat.”

Despite planting delays this spring, U.S. corn and soybeans have benefited from favourable weather in recent weeks. The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Monday said 68 per cent of the corn crop was rated in good to excellent condition, up from 67 per cent a week earlier.

For soybeans, the government rated 67 per cent of the crop as good to excellent, unchanged from the previous week and the highest rating for early July since 2004.

Optimism about crop prospects pressed CBOT December corn to a 2-1/2-year low last week.

Weekly data from the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission released on Monday showed that speculators sharply expanded their net short position in CBOT corn in the week ended July 2, leaving the market ripe for a short-covering bounce.

“Maybe we got ahead of ourselves, pricing a record crop into the balance sheet, and we are seeing short-covering activity there,” said Shawn McCambridge, a grains analyst with Jefferies Bache in Chicago.

Wheat climbs on export demand

Wheat also rose on short-covering as traders continued to digest news that China bought more than 1.3 million tonnes of U.S. wheat in the past week.

“We have been oversold for several sessions, and we have had good soft wheat sales to China, so that rekindled some of that supportive environment,” said McCambridge.

Also, the U.S. winter wheat harvest was winding down in the breadbasket of the southern Plains, signalling a seasonal market rebound. USDA said the harvest in Kansas, the biggest U.S. winter wheat producer, was 87 per cent complete by Sunday. Nationally, the U.S. winter wheat harvest was 57 per cent finished, behind the five-year average of 64 per cent.

“You expect to see a bottom, seasonally, in the first week of July, when harvest is going and all the bearish news is in,” said J. Mark Kinoff, president of Ceres Hedge in Chicago.

Traders were also adjusting positions ahead of USDA’s monthly supply/demand reports due Thursday, which could show smaller wheat forecasts for Russia. Two leading analysts lowered their estimates of Russia’s 2013 wheat crop on Monday due to drought.

“The market will watch closely for Thursday’s USDA report and their take on Russian production in wheat,” analyst FCStone said in a daily note.

— Julie Ingwersen is a Reuters correspondent reporting on ag commodity markets from Chicago. Additional reporting for Reuters by Ivana Sekularac in Amsterdam and Naveen Thukral in Singapore.

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