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335874

GRAINS-Soy, corn sag on worries about China demand; USDA data in focus

(Updates with closing U.S. prices, USDA crop ratings and details)

By Julie Ingwersen

CHICAGO, Nov 7 (Reuters) - U.S. soybean futures dropped on Monday, retreating from a six-week high, pressured by fears about export demand after top buyer China denied it was considering easing its stringent zero-COVID policy.

Traders were also adjusting positions ahead of monthly supply-and-demand reports due at mid-week from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Wheat closed lower after a short-lived rally at mid-session.

Chicago Board of Trade January soybeans settled down 12 cents at $14.50-1/4 per bushel, retreating after a climb to $14.69, the contract's highest since Sept. 22.

CBOT December corn ended down 5-1/4 cents at $6.75-3/4 a bushel and December wheat finished down 2 cents at $8.45-3/4 a bushel.

Soybeans fell on concerns about slowing demand from China, the world's top soy importer, where exports and imports unexpectedly contracted in October as the country struggles with COVID curbs. China's soy imports fell 19% in October from a year earlier to 4.14 million tonnes, customs data showed, hitting their lowest for any month since 2014.

"There are big questions about the end of COVID-zero policy in China and seemingly few answers," said Phin Ziebell, agribusiness economist at National Australia Bank. "Markets keep speculating it will end and then it doesn't end."

Corn declined in line with soybeans and as traders adjusted positions ahead of the USDA's Nov. 9 supply/demand reports. The average of estimates for the U.S. corn and soybean yield among analysts surveyed by Reuters were unchanged from the USDA's October figures.

But some private estimates, including those from StoneX and IHS Markit, part of S&P Global Commodity Insights, projected higher corn and soybean yields than the USDA's October estimates.

The U.S. harvest is winding down. The USDA said 94% of the soybean crop was harvested, as of Sunday, matching trade expectations, along with 87% of the corn crop, ahead of an average of trade estimates for 86%.

The USDA rated 30% of the U.S. winter wheat crop in good-to-excellent condition, up 2 percentage points from the previous week, but still the lowest for this time of year in records dating to the late 1980s.

Separately, the USDA on Monday released unofficial annual "baseline" forecasts projecting that U.S. farmers are likely to expand plantings of corn and wheat for the upcoming 2023/24 marketing year, while reducing seedings of soybeans.

Iraq and Algeria issued tenders to buy wheat, but Egypt's state grains buyer, the General Authority for Supply Commodities (GASC), cancelled an international wheat purchasing tender, citing high prices. (Additional reporting by Naveen Thukral in Singapore and Sybille de La Hamaide in Paris; Editing by Rashmi Aich, David Evans, Aurora Ellis and Sherry Jacob-Phillips,)

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