U.S. grains: CBOT wheat extends rally, corn hits highest since July

(Lisa Guenther photo)

Chicago | Reuters — U.S. wheat futures rose on Thursday, extending a winning streak spurred by concerns about Russia cutting back on its overseas shipments, traders said.

Corn and soybean futures also firmed, with corn hitting its highest since July 7 during the session. Improving export prospects following China’s approval of some genetically modified strains added support.

Wheat ended higher but prices closed well below the seven-month high hit during the overnight session.

“(The wheat market) is due to slow down a little bit but wheat is still supported by Russia announcing that they are going to limit exports,” said Dewey Strickler, president of grain consultancy Ag Watch Market Advisors.

Chicago Board of Trade March soft red winter wheat settled up 6-3/4 cents at $6.55-1/4 a bushel, its sixth straight day of gains (all figures US$). The contract has rallied 12.2 per cent during the streak.

“The market is continuing to price in the uncertainty surrounding Russia,” a European trader said. “It’s hard to read because you have a very volatile market that’s risen very fast.”

Russia, one of the world’s main wheat exporters, is restricting grain exports to try to cool domestic prices as it tackles a currency crisis linked to plunging oil prices and Western sanctions. Industry sources said the country has significantly cut railway loading of grain for export, adding to informal curbs to overseas shipments.

Traders said the informal steps taken by Russia were making it very hard to assess the impact on exports and that there was still confusion about whether ships at Russian ports were loading and getting export clearance.

CBOT January soybeans were eight cents higher at $10.35 a bushel and CBOT March corn was up 2-3/4 cents at $4.11 a bushel.

The U.S. Agriculture Department on Thursday morning said private exporters reported the sale of 1.5 million tonnes of soybeans to China for delivery in the 2015-16 marketing year.

“We are seeing the demand for the soybeans continue,” said Karl Setzer, market analyst with MaxYield Cooperative. “It is just relentless.”

Exporters also sold 126,000 tonnes of corn to unknown destinations for 2014-15 shipment.

USDA’s weekly export sales report showed corn and soybean sales near the low end of a range of analysts’ forecasts.

— Mark Weinraub is a Reuters correspondent covering grain markets from Chicago. Additional reporting for Reuters by Gus Trompiz in Paris and Colin Packham in Sydney.

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