U.S. grains: Wheat prices slide in see-saw trade

(Lisa Guenther photo)

Reuters — U.S. wheat futures dipped on Monday in a see-saw trade on technical selling and easing worries about tensions between wheat-exporting countries Russia and Ukraine.

Corn futures moved off contract lows hit earlier this month on a short-covering boost before a highly anticipated government crop report while deferred soybean contracts fell on rains in the U.S. Midwest that raised crop expectations.

Easing concerns about Ukraine and a drop-off in short-covering by funds turned attention to ample global wheat supplies, said Jim Gerlach, president of A/C Trading in Fowler, Indiana.

“There is still going to be plenty of wheat in the world.”

Instead of tensions between Russia and Ukraine curbing Black Sea wheat exports, the situation was pushing Ukrainian exports to a multi-year high as toughened borrowing conditions for farmers led them to accelerate sales.

Even so, NATO said on Monday that there was a “high probability” that Russia could launch an invasion of Ukraine, deterring any deeper selloff.

Chicago Board of Trade September wheat futures dipped 2-3/4 cents or 0.5 per cent to $5.46-1/2 a bushel (all figures US$). The contract peaked at $5.72 last week, its highest level since July 7.

Expectations that the U.S. Department of Agriculture would raise its estimate of U.S. wheat production in its next monthly crop supply/demand report on Tuesday also pressured wheat.

Corn’s gains contributed to earlier wheat advances, said Shawn McCambridge, grains analyst at Jefferies Bache.

U.S. soybean production and yield forecasts are both expected to be revised upwards by USDA, according to the average trade estimate in a Reuters survey. Weekend rains in the Midwest bolstered expectations of a record-large harvest in autumn.

CBOT new crop November soybean futures fell 11-1/2 cents or 1.1 per cent to $10.73-1/4 a bushel losing ground to the nearby August contract, which rose sharply ahead of expiry on tight old-crop supplies.

USDA’s soybean estimates on Tuesday may be conservative compared to trade expectations, which tend to over-state soybean output at this time of year, Gerlach said.

Analysts were expecting USDA to report little change in U.S. crop condition ratings for soybeans and corn at 3 p.m. CT.

Corn prices got a lift from short-covering and unwinding of corn-soybean spread trades, said Brad Metzger, a vice-president with Futures International in Chicago. The upside remained capped by a favourable outlook for the U.S. crop.

CBOT December corn futures gained 4-3/4 cents or 1.3 per cent to $3.68-1/4 a bushel but remained within striking distance of their contract low of $3.61 hit earlier this month.

— Rod Nickel is a Reuters correspondent based in Winnipeg. Additional reporting for Reuters by Julie Ingwersen in Chicago, Nigel Hunt in London and Colin Packham in Sydney.

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