U.S. grains: Soy, corn, wheat firm ahead of USDA monthly data

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Chicago | Reuters — U.S. soybean, corn and wheat futures closed higher on Wednesday as traders adjusted positions a day before a monthly U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) report in which analysts expect the government to lower its 2019 U.S. yield estimates for corn and soybeans.

The report due on Thursday is drawing extra interest after USDA surprised the market with a higher-than-expected estimate of U.S. corn plantings on June 28.

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“Traders are just prepping for those reports tomorrow,” said Bill Gentry of Risk Management Commodities.

Futures traders have been holding their breath since the USDA acreage report in late June, and some wondered how the government would address crop production prospects in Thursday’s report, given widespread U.S. planting delays.

“I hope that the USDA will acknowledge the situation in this (July’s) report and edit accordingly,” Gentry said.

Analysts surveyed by Reuters on average expected the government to trim its estimate of the U.S. 2019 corn yield to 165 bushels per acre, from 166 bu./ac. in June, and lower its soybean yield estimate to 48.6 bu./ac., from 49.5 in June.

September corn futures on the Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT) settled up 2-1/2 cents at $4.35 a bushel, turning higher after dipping to $4.27, the contract’s lowest in a week.

CBOT August soybeans settled up 8-1/2 cents to $8.94-1/2 a bushel.

Improved crop ratings and drier weather were seen boosting U.S. production prospects after torrential spring rains, a factor that pressured grain futures in early moves.

USDA on Monday rated 57 per cent of the U.S. corn crop as good to excellent, up from 56 per cent the previous week. But soybean ratings declined, with 53 per cent of the oilseed crop seen as good to excellent, down from 54 per cent a week earlier.

Warmer weather in the heart of the U.S. Midwest this week has raised concern about potential crop stress. But the warm spell may also benefit crops by drying out soggy fields and accelerating plant growth.

“For the short term, this (hot and dry) weather is good,” said Gentry. “But after about a week of this weather, the corn will start to show some deterioration.”

CBOT September wheat futures settled up two cents to $5.04-3/4 a bushel, finding technical support just below the $5 level. The contract earlier fell to $4.98, its weakest since June 6.

Some 47 per cent of the U.S. winter wheat harvest was completed by Sunday, USDA said, above trade expectations for 45 per cent.

Decent harvest prospects across Europe, despite some forecast downgrades in Russia, and stiff export competition illustrated by an Egyptian tender on Wednesday hung over the market, capping gains.

Reporting for Reuters by Barbara Smith in Chicago; additional reporting by Colin Packham in Sydney and Guz Trompiz in Paris.

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