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GRAINS-U.S. grain futures slip on rail strike threat, EU wheat talk


U.S. winter crop ratings at lowest since at least 1986


Soybeans ease down on COVID concerns


Corn slips on wheat pressure, lack of fresh news

(Updates paragraph 1, adds closing prices)

By P.J. Huffstutter

CHICAGO, Nov 22 (Reuters) - Chicago Board of Trade grain futures fell on Tuesday, amid growing concern over a possible U.S. rail strike and market speculation that U.S. grain buyers were purchasing European Union wheat, traders said.

French wheat sales to China and the prospect of Polish or German wheat being booked in the United States are creating an unexpected wave of demand for EU supplies after exports had been curbed by Russian competition in recent weeks, traders said.

Early in the session, U.S. wheat futures had traded higher at times as dry weather threatened U.S. winter crop areas.

But one trader, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said wheat prices turned downward after traders noted talk of a U.S. mill in Florida importing European wheat.

The most-active wheat contract on the Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT) settled the day down 7-3/4 cents to close at $8.10-1/2 a bushel.

Soybeans settled down 7 cents at $14.29-3/4 bushel and corn settled down 2-3/4 cents to $6.56-3/4 a bushel.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on Monday rated 32% of the U.S. winter wheat crop in good to excellent condition, unchanged from the previous week - the lowest for this time of the year in USDA records dating to 1986.

Some processors and mills are beginning to prepare for a potential rail traffic stoppage after workers at the largest U.S. rail union voted this week against a tentative contract deal reached in September, said Dan Basse, president of consultancy AgResource in Chicago.

"It's all I'm hearing about, that people are planning ahead," Basse said.

Corn futures saw pressure from wheat and a lack of fresh news. Meanwhile, market concerns that rising COVID-19 cases in China could dent the country's commodity demand also weighed on soybean futures, as Beijing warned it was facing its most severe test of the pandemic. (Additional reporting by Julie Ingwersen in Chicago, Naveen Thukralin Singapore and Sybille de La Hamaide in Paris; Editing by Marguerita Choy and Paul Simao)

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