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Corn nears five-month high

Updated: 02/21/2014 @ 4:09pm

U.S. corn futures settled at the highest price in nearly five months, helped by robust international demand for the grain. Soybeans also rose, while wheat declined.

Corn for March delivery climbed 2 cents, or 0.4%, to $4.55 3/4 a bushel at the Chicago Board of Trade, the highest closing price since Sept. 26.

Analysts said corn futures were buoyed by continued strong export demand and improved sentiment about the market from investors such as hedge funds.

Corn futures also may have benefited from concerns that violence in Ukraine could interrupt exports from the large eastern European corn producer, increasing demand for U.S. grain.

"We don't know how big an impact there is," said Doug Houghton, an analyst at agricultural commodity advisory firm Brock Associates in Milwaukee, Wis. "There's been no actual effect on exports yet, but [Ukraine corn] prices are reported rising. They've gone up a pretty good amount over past week, which will affect demand going forward."

Global grain merchant Cargill Inc.'s Ukrainian export operations haven't been affected so far by the country's deepening political unrest, and its Kiev office remains open, though staff are encouraged to work from home to ensure safety, spokeswoman Wendy Garbutt said.

Market watchers also noted the U.S. Department of Agriculture at an annual crop-outlook forum in Washington lowered its initial projection for corn acreage this year to 92 million acres, compared with an earlier estimate of 93.5 million.

CBOT March soybeans rose 4 cents, or 0.3%, to $13.58 1/4 a bushel, continuing a strong upward trend for the oilseed.

Analysts said dryness in Brazil, a major soybean producer, bolstered prices for the U.S. crop. Thus far, the lack of significant cancellations for U.S. soybean orders by China--the world's largest importer of the oilseeds--has also eased fears that the Asian nation would replace U.S. soybeans with cheaper South American soybeans.

U.S. wheat futures fell, ending a weeklong run-up in prices amid USDA forecasts that farmers would see a marked decline in cash prices this year.

The USDA said wheat prices paid to farmers will drop by an average $1.50 a bushel in the 2014-15 season to $5.30. Rising global production of the grain is expected to weigh on prices.

"World supplies for wheat are still relatively comfortable, so it's uncertain how much further the wheat market can rally in the near term," said Mr. Houghton. "The USDA's outlook is not positive."

CBOT March wheat dropped 4 cents, or 0.6%, to $6.16 1/4 a bushel, backing off from the two-month high reached Wednesday.

--Jacob Bunge contributed to this article.

Write to Jesse Newman at jesse.newman@wsj.com

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(END) Dow Jones Newswires

February 20, 2014 16:05 ET (21:05 GMT)

DJ U.S. Corn Prices Reach Nearly 5-Month High -- Update->copyright

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