U.S. grains: Wheat hits one-month top on firm cash markets

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

Chicago | Reuters — U.S. wheat futures climbed to a one-month high on Monday on firm domestic cash values and signs of rising global cash prices, traders said.

Corn futures followed wheat higher but soybean futures fell, with the benchmark January contract hitting its lowest level in more than two months.

Chicago Board of Trade December wheat settled up 15-3/4 cents at $5.31 a bushel after reaching $5.32-1/2, its highest price since Oct. 21 (all figures US$).

CBOT December corn ended up 1-3/4 cents at $3.70-1/2 a bushel while January soybeans finished down 4-1/2 cents at $8.92-1/2 a bushel after dipping to $8.92, the contract’s lowest level since Sept. 12.

Wheat futures rose on a mix of fund-driven short covering and bullish fundamentals including rising cash values for U.S. and Russian supplies, wet weather in Europe and fears of a decline in U.S. acreage.

“It started with short covering. But the cash market in (U.S.) soft wheat is on fire,” said Roy Huckabay with Linn + Associates, a Chicago brokerage.

Underscoring the strength in the domestic cash market, traders noted that zero contracts of wheat were registered for delivery against CBOT futures ahead of first notice day for December deliveries on Friday.

The absence of delivery registrations typically suggests that commercial grain handlers see the cash market as a better sale than delivering against futures.

Analysts also noted weather issues including dry conditions in Russia and excessive moisture elsewhere.

“I think you’ve got issues in Europe… with wet conditions preventing plantings,” Huckabay said. Heavy rain is expected to reduce winter cereal sowings in parts of Western Europe, the European Union’s crop monitoring unit, MARS, said on Monday.

After the CBOT close, the U.S. Department of Agriculture rated 52 per cent of the U.S. winter wheat crop in good to excellent condition, unchanged from a week earlier. Analysts surveyed by Reuters on average had expected a decline of one percentage point.

Russian wheat prices recorded a second consecutive weekly rise last week amid higher export demand and lower domestic supply caused by concerns about the 2020 crop.

Traders were monitoring a strike at Canada’s largest railroad, Canadian National Railway, which entered its seventh day. An association of Canadian exporters declared an event of delay, allowing members to avoid contract penalties due to circumstances outside their control.

CBOT soybean futures fell as uncertainty about U.S.-China trade talks and improving South American crop weather overshadowed strong weekly U.S. export inspections.

USDA reported export inspections of U.S. soybeans in the latest week at 1,942,761 tonnes, the highest weekly total in two years.

U.S. trade talks with China, a key market for U.S. agricultural goods, especially soybeans, remained in focus.

China and the United States are “moving closer to agreeing” on a “phase one” trade deal, the Global Times, a tabloid run by the ruling Communist Party’s official People’s Daily, reported on Sunday. But the report noted that Washington and Beijing had not agreed on specifics or size of tariff rollbacks on Chinese goods.

“I don’t think the negotiations on the trade deal are going very well,” Huckabay said.

The delayed U.S. harvest was winding down. USDA late Monday reported harvest progress at 94 per cent for soybeans and 84 per cent for corn, lagging the respective five-year averages of 97 and 96 per cent.

Reporting for Reuters by Julie Ingwersen in Chicago; additional reporting by Gus Trompiz in Paris and Naveen Thukral in Singapore.

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