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Wheat jumps on Ukraine stocks worries

10/19/2012 @ 3:09pm

U.S. wheat futures rose Friday after Ukraine said it may run out of supplies for export next month, fueling hopes for increased demand for U.S. supplies.

Chicago Board of Trade December wheat futures settled up 4 cents, or 0.5%, at $8.72 1/2 a bushel. KCBT December wheat rose 3 1/4 cents, or 0.4%, to $9.08 a bushel. MGEX December wheat fell 1 1/2 cents, or 0.2%, to $9.42 1/2 a bushel.

Ukraine, one of the world's largest wheat exporters, said Friday it could run out of exportable stocks of the grain around Nov. 15 or Nov. 20.

The country has contracts to ship a total of 5.4 million metric tons of wheat for shipment in its current crop season, a figure that already accounts for the country's total surplus that could be used for exports, Ukraine's First Deputy Agriculture Minister Ivan Bisyuk said in a statement on the ministry's website.

A drought over the summer in Europe's Black Sea region shrank the potential of crops, including for wheat in Ukraine and Russia. The reduced supplies have led analysts to speculate for months that the countries could move to limit grain exports, as Russia did in 2010 after a severe drought and wildfires.

Ukraine's announcement could boost U.S. export sales that have been lackluster for weeks, analysts said.

"It obviously increases our chances for export sales," said Louise Gartner, an analyst with brokerage Spectrum Commodities in Beavercreek, Ohio. "At this point you're not going to see any more offers out of Ukraine."

Ms. Gartner said the U.S. would still face tough competition from European wheat exporters, but that the U.S. and Canada will still have an advantage with buyers seeking high-protein varieties of the grain used in bread and other baked goods. The U.S. is the world's largest wheat exporter.

World wheat supplies that traders viewed as excessive just a year ago have started to shrink due to inclement weather, ranging from dryness in the Black Sea area and Australia to heavy rains in Argentina. Traders are also worried about dry soil slowing the development of a new U.S. wheat crop in the Great Plains. The range of threats to production in big exporting countries drove wheat prices higher over the summer and has kept them high since then.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture currently estimates world wheat production this year will fall 6.1% from last year to 653.05 million metric tons.

Wheat exporters from the Black Sea region repeatedly undercut the prices of U.S. wheat exporters last month. Buyers including Egypt, the world's top importer of wheat, bypassed U.S. wheat supplies in tenders because they were too expensive.

The drawdown in Black Sea wheat supplies highlighted hopes that U.S. exports could pick up again soon. Traders have said U.S. wheat exports so far are running behind schedule to meet the federal government's export forecast for this marketing year.

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