U.S. grains: Wheat, corn up on technical buying, export optimism

Soybean traders remain cautious

CBOT March 2020 wheat with 20-, 50- and 100-day moving averages. (Barchart)

Chicago | Reuters — U.S. corn and wheat futures rose on Thursday on chart-based buying and short-covering coupled with optimism about prospects for U.S. agricultural export sales to China, traders said.

Soybean futures firmed but trailed the advances in grains.

Chicago Board of Trade March corn settled up 4-1/4 cents at $3.83-1/2 per bushel after hitting a one-week high at $3.85 (all figures US$).

CBOT March wheat ended up 2-1/2 cents at $5.58-3/4 a bushel and March soybeans rose one cent to settle at $8.82 a bushel.

Corn posted the biggest advances on a percentage basis, with the most-active March contract closing right at its 50-day moving average after trading above it at times during the session.

“Yesterday (corn) was testing lows of this range we’ve been in, and bouncing back. I think you had some technical buyers line up this morning, and we had a lot of stops to run on these moving averages,” said Ted Seifried, chief ag market strategist for Zaner Group in Chicago.

“This is a day where we’ve realized (that) all the pressure we’ve been putting on is just not holding. So sellers are throwing in the towel,” Seifried said.

Some analysts noted optimism about Chinese demand for U.S. agricultural products. Chinese President Xi Jinping told U.S. President Donald Trump that China would still meet its Phase One trade deal purchasing targets despite delays linked to the coronavirus, White House adviser Larry Kudlow told Bloomberg Television.

Fears that the fast-spreading coronavirus would hamper demand have hung over the commodity markets.

“Xi and Trump saying, ‘Yeah, there will be a deal, and it probably won’t be impacted (by the virus)’ — that’s a key issue for us,” said Rich Nelson, chief strategist with Allendale Inc.

Still, a lack of significant Chinese purchases of U.S. soybeans since the Phase One trade agreement signed by Beijing and Washington last month and the prospect of stiff competition from an expected bumper Brazilian soy harvest kept U.S. traders cautious.

Chinese importers have recently booked French wheat for shipment during the first half of 2020, traders said, adding to an unusual run of French exports to China in the past few months.

Grain traders await next week’s monthly supply and demand forecasts from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. USDA said Thursday its Feb. 11 monthly report would factor in the broad goals of the U.S.-Chinese trade deal but not details of China’s purchase commitments.

— Julie Ingwersen is a Reuters commodities correspondent in Chicago; additional reporting by Gus Trompiz in Paris and Naveen Thukral in Singapore.

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