U.S. grains: Wheat eases in profit-taking setback

CBOT December 2019 wheat with 20-, 50- and 100-day moving averages. (Barchart)

Chicago | Reuters — U.S. wheat futures declined on Monday on profit taking after three sessions of gains, on concerns about weather-reduced Southern Hemisphere crops that had lifted the market to multi-month highs.

Soybeans were mixed amid worries about reduced yields and late harvesting, while corn drifted lower on dull demand. Both markets remained in a narrow trading range as investors awaited fresh U.S. harvest progress data and updated weather forecasts.

Widespread rains stalled harvesting across much of the U.S. farm belt on Monday, but the latest forecasts are calling for below-normal precipitation over the next two weeks.

Worsening wheat crop prospects in Southern Hemisphere exporters Argentina and Australia, as well as weather-hampered harvests in North America, have shifted attention away from large global stocks of wheat.

“That steep rally that we’ve seen over the last couple of weeks triggered some profit taking,” said Brian Basting, analyst with Advance Trading. “But we’re still looking at dry conditions across Australia and the possibility for dry conditions lowering the crop in Argentina too,” he said.

Chicago Board of Trade December wheat ended down 8-3/4 cents at $5.23-1/2 a bushel after peaking at $5.35, the highest for a most-active contract since June 28 (all figures US$).

On Friday, National Australia Bank said it expects that country’s wheat production to drop to 15.5 million tonnes, cutting its forecast to well below recent market estimates.

In Argentina, recent rains have not been strong enough to help wheat fields after weeks of dryness, the Buenos Aires Grains Exchange said on Thursday.

Global wheat prices, including in top exporter Russia, have been rising due to the production concerns and strong demand from importers such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

CBOT December corn was down 3-3/4 cents at $3.87-1/4 a bushel while November soybeans were down 3/4 cent at $9.33-1/4 a bushel.

Corn futures were pressured by a weak U.S. export pace, with sales and shipments at less than half of year-ago levels.

Snowfall and freezing temperatures in northern U.S. states have raised additional risks over ongoing harvesting of corn, soybeans and wheat.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has said it will collect extra data on corn and soybean acreage in Minnesota and North Dakota following the recent snow.

After the market closed on Monday, USDA said just 30 per cent of the U.S. corn crop had been harvested as of Sunday, below trade expectations, while soybeans were 46 per cent harvested, above trade estimates.

— Karl Plume reports on agriculture and ag commodities for Reuters from Chicago; additional reporting by Gus Trompiz in Paris and Naveen Thukral in Singapore.

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