U.S. grains: Soybeans end mixed as sales to China remain below expectations

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Chicago | Reuters – U.S. soybean futures were mixed on Thursday as the U.S. government confirmed fresh purchases by China, but sales volumes to the world’s top importer since the latest round of U.S.-China trade talks remained short of expectations.

Favorable U.S. harvest weather also anchored soybean prices, with largely dry weather forecast for much of the Midwest over the coming week.

Corn futures eased on weak export demand and an advancing U.S. harvest, while wheat fell for the third time in four sessions on lower-than-expected weekly export sales.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on Thursday confirmed private sales of 264,000 tonnes of soybeans to China via its daily reporting system.

Some purchases had been expected after Beijing this week offered to exempt importers from tariffs on U.S. shipments. However, sales volumes remained lighter-than-anticipated since the White House announced a phase one deal that included a vow by Beijing to ramp up purchases to record highs.

“The trade is ready to take the market higher but wants more details about the phase one deal,” said Mike Zuzolo, president of Global Commodity Analytics.

“Actual soybean sales and shipments are not up to expectations,” he said.

Weekly soybean export sales data released by the USDA on Thursday was also below expectations. Net sales last week fell to a two-month low of 475,200 tonnes, including just one cargo of beans to China. Analysts surveyed by Reuters ahead of the report had expected weekly sales of 800,000 tonnes or more.

Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT) November soybean futures settled 1/2 cent lower at $9.33-1/4 a bushel. The actively traded contract has encountered strong technical resistance at the $9.40 level.

CBOT December corn ended down a penny at $3.86-3/4 a bushel and December wheat fell 4-3/4 cents to $5.16 a bushel.

Corn export sales of about 582,900 tonnes last week were within the range of trade expectations, but sales this season remain well below normal due to stiff competition from lower-cost producers.

Wheat export sales fell to a near-four-month low of 262,400 tonnes.

Wheat prices had been supported by a run of tenders from grain importers in the Middle East and North Africa and by worsening prospects for upcoming harvests in southern hemisphere exporters Australia and Argentina due to dry weather.

– Additional reporting by Gus Trompiz in Paris and Naveen Thukral in Singapore

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