GRAINS-Corn, wheat futures ease on firm U.S. dollar, export concerns
COVID-19 lockdowns in China hang over commodity markets
Dollar jump also curbs U.S. grain futures
U.S. rail union votes against tentative contract deal
(Adds closing prices, details on U.S. rail issues)
By Tom Polansek
CHICAGO, Nov 21 (Reuters) - Chicago Board of Trade grain futures eased on Monday as a stronger dollar and worries about U.S. exports weighed on prices, analysts said.
The dollar advanced against most major currencies, making U.S. commodities look less attractive to importers, as tightened COVID-19 rules in China fuelled worries over the global economic outlook. Beijing warned it was facing its most severe test of the coronavirus pandemic.
"Corn futures gapped lower as exports continue to be a concern, elevated today by the dollar index gaining," CHS Hedging said in a note.
The most-active CBOT corn contract fell 6-1/2 cents to close at $6.63-1/2 a bushel, while wheat slipped 3-3/4 cents to $8.18-1/4 a bushel. Soybeans, meanwhile, closed up 8-1/2 cents at $14.36-3/4 a bushel.
Crude oil and share prices also weakened.
"The increase is COVID-19 cases in China is seen as a bearish demand factor for food and energy consumption," market research firm Hightower said in a report.
The stronger dollar underscored a lack of competitiveness for U.S. wheat as Russian exports pick up and a 120-day extension to a grain shipping corridor from Ukraine is set to maintain flows from the war-torn country, market analysts said.
Wheat prices in Russia, the world's biggest exporter of the grain, fell last week amid an extension of the Black Sea deal allowing Ukrainian grain shipments, analysts said.
Unconfirmed talk in the market of French wheat sales to China and of possible sales of Polish wheat to the United States underscored how U.S. wheat remains uncompetitive globally, grain traders said.
Traders also worried about a potential year-end U.S. rail strike, after workers at the largest rail union voted against a tentative contract deal reached in September.
"Any additional disruption of rail service would immediately impact the nation's food and agriculture and broader supply chains," said the National Grain and Feed Association, an industry group. "The risk in both domestic and international markets is real." (Reporting by Tom Polansek in Chicago, Gus Trompiz in Paris and Naveen Thukral in Singapore; Editing by Rashmi Aich, Chizu Nomiyama and Grant McCool)
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