U.S. grains: Wheat closes lower, ending rally

(Lisa Guenther photo)

Chicago | Reuters –– U.S. wheat futures fell from a 5-1/2-week high on Thursday on a round of profit-taking following a six-session rally that had pushed prices up 9.2 per cent, traders said.

“We came pretty far, pretty fast off our lows,” said Chris Robinson, senior trader at Top Third Ag Marketing. “It is not surprising that we get a little bit of a breather.”

Corn futures also fell, weighed down by light demand on the export market. Soybeans were mixed, with the front-month contract supported by tight supplies, while old-crop contracts sagged on expectations of a huge harvest.

Traders said the wheat market was in focus owing to concerns about how the conflict between Russia and Ukraine would affect exports from the Black Sea region.

In a sweeping response to Western sanctions imposed over Russia’s support for rebels in Ukraine, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said on Thursday his country will ban fruit, vegetable, meat, fish, milk and dairy imports from the U.S., the EU, Australia, Canada and Norway. Moscow is the second-biggest importer of U.S. poultry. [Related story]

Chicago Board of Trade soft red winter wheat for September delivery settled down 6-1/2 cents at $5.61-1/2 a bushel (all figures US$).

Some short-covering, spurred by speculation the Ukraine crisis could deepen in coming days, kept the declines in check and pulled wheat from its session low. Traders also cited some technical support for CBOT September wheat at its 40-day moving average.

CBOT September corn was 3-3/4 cents lower at $3.59-1/2 a bushel, with expectations for a bumper harvest keeping bargain buyers on the sidelines even with prices near four-year lows.

“Corn remains a bit bearish as reports continue to come from the interior of very strong looking yield potential in this year’s corn crop,” said Greg Grow, director of agribusiness for Archer Financial Services.

The U.S. Agriculture Department said on Thursday morning that new-crop export sales of corn were 758,700 tonnes in the latest week, below trade estimates ranging from 800,000 to one million tonnes.

“The world has moved into a period of surplus in the corn market, so the function of the market has become to weaken farmer margins and discourage production,” Macquarie analyst Christopher Gadd said.

An export trader said that most world buyers were more interested in Black Sea corn, which was priced about 15 cents a bushel lower than U.S. supplies.

CBOT soybeans for August delivery were 13 cents higher at $12.50 a bushel, while the new-crop November contract was two cents lower at $10.78 a bushel.

— Mark Weinraub is a Reuters correspondent covering grain markets from Chicago. Additional reporting for Reuters by Naveen Thukral in Singapore and Nigel Hunt in London.

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