U.S. grains: Soybeans hit one-week high on firm cash, demand for meal

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Chicago | Reuters — U.S. soybean futures reached their highest in more than a week on Tuesday, buoyed by sluggish farmer sales and strong export demand for soymeal, traders said.

Wheat firmed on deteriorating U.S. crop conditions, and corn followed soybeans higher.

At the Chicago Board of Trade, January soybeans settled 17-1/4 cents higher at $10.51 per bushel, with January soymeal up $12.20 per ton at $374.80 (all figures US$).

Most-active March wheat finished up 8-1/4 cents at $5.57-3/4 a bushel, and March corn ended seven cents higher at $3.87-1/4 a bushel.

Soybeans led the early gains as soymeal, a key protein source in animal feed, remained in short supply domestically. The record-large U.S. soy harvest is 97 per cent complete, but robust export sales of soybeans and soymeal have kept domestic processors in the hunt for fresh supplies.

“You’ve got strong cash markets, and bull-spreads are working,” said Tom Fritz, partner at EFG Group in Chicago. “The bottom line is, in the near term, we have still got some exceptional demand.”

Traders also cited a Congressional Budget Office preliminary forecast for U.S. soybean plantings to drop by two million acres in 2015. A CBO spokesman said the office did not release new official U.S. crop projections this week, but confirmed that estimates circulated among grain traders on Tuesday were preliminary forecasts.

Corn was largely a follower of soybeans, with firm cash bids from ethanol producers and exporters lending support. The U.S. Department of Agriculture said the U.S. corn harvest, projected at more than 14 billion bushels, was 94 per cent complete as of Sunday.

CBOT wheat rose more than one per cent after the USDA rated 58 per cent of the U.S. winter wheat crop as good to excellent, down from 60 per cent the previous week, following a cold spell. Ratings dropped the most in Nebraska.

Kansas City (KC) hard red winter wheat reached its highest level since Sept. 8 on a continuous chart, supported by the drop in ratings and inter-market spreading against Chicago wheat.

Traders were monitoring crop conditions in Argentina, where excessive rains in some areas have threatened wheat quality, and in the Black Sea region, where cold weather has hampered germination.

— Julie Ingwersen is a Reuters correspondent covering crop commodity markets from Chicago. Additional reporting for Reuters by Naveen Thukral in Singapore and Gus Trompiz in Paris.

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