U.S. grains: Corn, soy drop to multimonth lows

Rising supplies, uncertain demand weigh on futures

cbot july corn
CBOT July 2019 corn with Bollinger (20,2) bands, a gauge of market volatility. (Barchart)

Chicago | Reuters — U.S. corn futures fell to their lowest level in seven months on Wednesday and spot soybean futures hit a 5-1/2-month low on ample global supplies and dimming prospects for U.S. export business, analysts said.

Wheat also declined, with Chicago Board of Trade futures hitting a one-month low while K.C. and Minneapolis Grain Exchange futures set across-the-board contract lows.

Benchmark CBOT July corn settled down 4-1/4 cents at $3.56 a bushel after hitting a contract low at $3.54-3/4 (all figures US$). May corn dipped to $3.45-1/2, the lowest spot price on a continuous chart since Sept. 20.

CBOT July soybeans ended down 6-3/4 cents at $8.68-3/4 a bushel and the May contract touched $8.54-1/2, the lowest spot soybean price since Nov. 8. CBOT July wheat fell 6-1/2 cents to settle at $4.38-1/2.

Commodity funds held a record-large net short position in CBOT corn futures as of April 16, data from the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission showed, and traders said funds have expanded that position in the days since.

Funds also hold sizable net short positions in soybeans and wheat futures, betting on further market declines.

“The funds are on a roll. They are unlikely to change until there is a significant shift in the fundamentals,” said Rich Feltes, vice-president for research with R.J. O’Brien.

“The market knows that the window for getting old-crop bean business off to China is closing. Unlike last year, we’ve got a 30 million-tonne increase in South American corn production, and 11-million-tonne-plus more in beans, so (U.S.) export prospects are certainly dim,” Feltes said.

Traders seemed unconcerned by wet conditions in the Midwest that have slowed the start of spring planting. Ample soil moisture could benefit crops later, Feltes noted.

And the spread of African swine fever in China’s hog herd has reduced demand for soymeal, a protein-rich animal feed.

“There is a strong soybean supply push coming from South America at a time when we have uncertainty over demand because of the African swine fever in China,” said Ole Houe, director of advisory services at brokerage IKON Commodities.

CBOT wheat slipped on strong Northern Hemisphere crop prospects as well as a stronger dollar, which tends to make U.S. grains less competitive globally. The U.S. dollar index reached its highest mark since June 2017.

Statistics Canada projected total Canadian wheat plantings for 2019 at 25.7 million acres, up four per cent from a year ago and exceeding the average trade expectation.

In the Black Sea region, favourable weather during spring grain sowing in Russia and Ukraine is increasing the chances of another large harvest.

“For wheat, we are expecting bigger crops in the Black Sea region and Europe compared with last year,” Houe said.

— 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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