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U.S. grains: Soybeans hit two-week high

Soy futures up on Brazil crop questions, U.S.-China trade hopes

Chicago | Reuters — U.S. soybean futures climbed to a two-week high on Friday on worries about the size of Brazil’s crop and short-covering ahead of planned U.S.-China trade talks next week, traders said.

Corn firmed, following strength in soybeans, while wheat drifted lower, pressured by news that a private forecaster had raised its estimate of Russian wheat exports.

Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT) March soybeans settled up 9-1/4 cents to $9.25-1/4 per bushel after reaching $9.26-1/4, the contract’s highest since Jan. 9 (all figures US$).

CBOT March corn ended up 3-1/4 cents at $3.80-1/4 a bushel while March wheat finished down 1-1/2 cents at $5.20 a bushel.

Soybeans led the way up as traders mulled South American crop prospects.

“It probably has more to do with dry conditions in Brazil (and) talk of a smaller crop in the country,” said Brian Hoops, president of Midwest Market Solutions. He added, “We are seeing a little technical buying coming into the soybean market as we make new highs.”

Parana state, Brazil’s second-largest soybean producer, on Thursday cut the forecast for its 2018-19 harvest to 16.8 million tonnes from 19.1 million, after a dry spell last month.

Traders were also adjusting positions ahead of U.S.-China trade talks scheduled in Washington on Jan. 30 and 31. China is by far the world’s largest soy buyer.

“Next week’s scheduled U.S.-China trade talks… raise hopes that China will make more ‘good-faith’ purchases to influence the talks, which is particularly supportive for the grain and oilseed markets today,” INTL FCStone chief commodities economist Arlan Suderman wrote in a note to clients.

Corn followed soybeans higher, but wheat futures declined, extending Thursday’s retreat from a five-week high in the CBOT March contract.

In Russia, the world’s biggest wheat exporter, rising prices, suggestions of stricter export inspections and a truck driver dispute have fueled expectations the country will fade from wheat export markets and leave more room for shipments from other suppliers such as the U.S.

But there has been limited evidence so far of an upswing in U.S. exports, and Russia’s Sovecon agriculture consultancy on Friday raised its forecast of Russia’s 2018-19 wheat exports to 35.6 million tonnes, from 35.1 million previously.

Around the time of the CBOT close, U.S. President Donald Trump said he had reached an agreement to reopen the government for three weeks. The pact requires passage in the House of Representatives and Senate, along with Trump’s signature.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s chief economist late on Friday said he expects the agency will release a monthly crop supply/demand report as planned on Feb. 8, if USDA offices reopen on Monday.

— Julie Ingwersen is a Reuters commodities correspondent in Chicago; additional reporting by Gus Trompiz in Paris and Colin Packham in Sydney.

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