U.S. grains: Wheat firm, corn flat as financial markets steady

CBOT soybean futures sag

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Chicago | Reuters — U.S. wheat futures closed fractionally higher on Friday and corn ended flat, stabilizing as wider financial markets regained some ground after plummeting on fears of the economic fallout from the global coronavirus outbreak.

But soybean futures fell, hitting life-of-contract lows as crop weather in South America improved, bolstering expectations of large harvests there.

Chicago Board of Trade May wheat settled up 1/2 cent at $5.06 per bushel (all figures US$). May corn finished unchanged at $3.65-3/4 a bushel, paring losses after dipping to $3.63-1/2, a contract low and the lowest value for a most-active corn contract on a continuous chart since Sept. 12.

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Grains were underpinned by short-covering and a bounce in equity markets on hopes of a co-ordinated stimulus package from world governments in response to the coronavirus pandemic, which threatens to slow down the global economy.

After the CBOT close, U.S. President Donald Trump declared a national emergency over the fast-spreading coronavirus, opening the door to more federal aid.

However, CBOT May soybeans settled down 10-3/4 cents at $8.48-3/4 a bushel after hitting $8.45-1/4, the cheapest price for a most-active soybean contract since May 28, 2019.

Argentina’s Buenos Aires Grains Exchange on Thursday lowered its estimate of the country’s 2019-20 soybean crop to 52 million tonnes, from 54.5 million previously, citing hot and dry weather.

But beneficial rains have since fallen in parts of Argentina’s crop belt, and outlooks called for more in the next week.

“There were question marks on their crop, but then the forecast is wet. So that aids the dry conditions,” said Don Roose, president of Iowa-based U.S. Commodities.

The soybean harvest is progressing in Brazil, the world’s top exporter of the oilseed. Farmers here have harvested 62.8 per cent of the 2019-20 crop, aided by drier weather in recent days, consultancy ARC Mercosul 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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