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GRAINS-Soybeans firm on Chinese trade prospects

* Beijing offers tariff waivers for U.S. soy imports

* Soybeans up on hopes for fresh sales to China

* Soy, corn anchored by accelerating U.S. harvest (Rewrites throughout with U.S. market open, adds quote, updates prices, changes byline, changes dateline from HAMBURG)

By Karl Plume

CHICAGO, Oct 22 (Reuters) - U.S. soybean futures firmed on Tuesday on hopes of fresh export sales to China after Beijing gave major crushers waivers to import U.S. soybeans without retaliatory tariffs.

Futures, however, drifted from early highs as new export deals failed to materialize and as farmers took advantage of the price spike to sell crops, flooding the market with newly harvested soybeans.

China on Tuesday offered 10 million tonnes of tariff-free quota to state and privately owned crushers and to major international trading houses with crushing plants in China at a meeting called by the state planner, according to sources that were briefed on the matter.

The news lifted Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT) November soybeans to within 1/4 cent of last week's peak, which was the highest point for a most-active contract since the start of the U.S.-China trade war more than 15 months ago.

"We started off with a bang on the idea that China would allow up to an additional 10 million tonnes (of U.S. soybeans) tariff free," said Ted Seifried, chief market strategist for Zaner Ag Hedge in Chicago.

"But we're right in the thick of harvest and a lot of farmers are selling cash beans," he said.

CBOT November soybeans were 3/4 cent higher at $9.34 a bushel at 12:15 p.m. CDT (1715 GMT) after peaking at $9.45-1/4 earlier in the session.

Prices were also anchored by an accelerating U.S. harvest, with 46% of the crop gathered as of Sunday, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Corn futures were flat on Tuesday, underpinned by a slower-than-expected harvest and concerns about lower yields in some areas, but capped by weak export demand.

U.S. corn was 30% harvested as of Sunday, up from 22% the previous week but below trade expectations for 34%.

CBOT December corn was unchanged at $3.87-1/4 a bushel after earlier touching a 1-1/2 week low of $3.85.

Forecasts for normal to below-normal precipitation for a large part of the U.S. farm belt over the next two weeks should allow for more active harvesting in most areas.

Wheat futures retreated on profit-taking following recent multi-month highs, although the market remained underpinned by rising prices in Russia and concerns over the Australian and Argentine harvests.

CBOT December wheat was down 3-1/4 cents at $5.20-1/4 a bushel. (Additional reporting by Michael Hogan in Hamburg and Naveen Thukral in Singapore Editing by David Goodman and Steve Orlofsky)

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