* Soy set for 3rd weekly rise as drought grips Argentina
* Traders weigh chances of rain as analysts cut crop estimates
* Grain markets digest USDA 2018-19 supply/demand outlook
(Updates with U.S. trading; changes byline, dateline, previous PARIS/SINGAPORE) CHICAGO, Feb 23 (Reuters) - U.S. soybean futures neared a one-year high on Friday as concerns mounted about crop losses from a searing drought in Argentina, the world's biggest exporter of soymeal and soyoil. Argentina, which is also the world's No. 3 supplier of soybeans and corn, has been grappling with dry weather since late last year. The effects are becoming apparent as crops are in the sensitive yield-formation stages. "Bottom line is we're still losing the yield," said Rich Nelson, chief strategist for Illinois-based broker Allendale.
The most actively traded May soybean contract on the
Chicago Board Of Trade (CBOT) was up 5-1/4 cents at $10.48-1/2 a bushel by 1 p.m. CST (1900 GMT). May soybeans touched $10.50-3/4 earlier in the session, the highest price for a most-active CBOT contract since March 2, 2017.
CBOT wheat was flat at $4.64-1/4. Corn was also
unchanged at $3.74-3/4 a bushel. Some analysts project a record-large soybean harvest in Brazil, the world's top exporter of the oilseed, will offset Argentina's crop losses. Brazil-based consultancy Agroconsult raised its estimate for the country's soybean harvest in the 2017-18 crop cycle. However, traders still added premium to the soy markets ahead of the weekend to offset risks for persistent heat and dryness in Argentina, said Brian Hoops, president of broker Midwest Market Solutions. "We're going to put that premium in prior to the weekend instead of after it happens," he said. Traders expect global buyers to shift purchases of soymeal, a livestock feed, to the United States from Argentina due to the drought. But weekly U.S. soymeal export sales reported on Friday were weak at 131,900 tonnes. Analysts had expected 200,000 tonnes to 450,000 tonnes. "We haven't really seen a big shift yet," Hoops said. The USDA said weekly U.S. corn export sales were 1.6 million tonnes, just above the high end of estimates. Weekly export sales of U.S. wheat totaled 328,900 tonnes, within the range of analysts' expectations. Separately, the USDA projected the 2018 U.S. corn and soybean harvests will come in below the levels reached in 2017.
Corn ending stocks for the 2018-19 crop year were pegged at 2.272 billion bushels, or 3 percent lower than the prior marketing year. Soybean ending stocks were seen falling by 13 percent to 460 million bushels.
(Additional reporting by Naveen Thukral in Singapore and Gus Trompiz in Paris; editing by David Evans and G Crosse)