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GRAINS-U.S. soybeans rally on soymeal gains; corn, wheat firm

(Recasts, updates with U.S. trading, adds new analyst quote, details, changes byline, dateline; pvs LONDON)

CHICAGO, April 27 (Reuters) - Chicago Board of Trade soybean futures rose on Friday on expectations that the United States will increase its share of the soymeal export market due to harvest shortfalls in Argentina, traders said.

Corn futures firmed, hitting a nine-month high for the third day in a row as traders scrambled to cover short positions ahead of the weekend.

Winter wheat also was supported by short-covering as traders squared positions ahead of a tour through Kansas next week that will allow crop scouts to get a first-hand look at damage caused by a drought.

At 9:58 a.m. CDT (1458 GMT), CBOT July soybean futures were up 8-1/2 cents at $10.48 a bushel. Soymeal futures were 1.9 percent higher and hit their highest since April 9. "Soybean prices continue to steer clear of modestly lower price levels where a dangerous minefield of momentum triggers await," said Tobin Gorey, director of agricultural strategy at Commonwealth Bank of Australia.

On the cash market, bids for soymeal shipped by barge to exporters at the U.S. Gulf firmed early on Friday. Premiums for soymeal loaded on ocean-going vessels also were strong.

"It is the meal leading the rally," said Dan Cekander, president of DC Analysis. "There is just a feeling that the drought in Argentina will cut back on their meal processing. That tightness has not been resolved."

CBOT July soft red winter wheat futures were 5-1/4 cents higher at $4.94-3/4 a bushel while K.C. hard red winter wheat for July delivery gained 3-1/2 cents to $5.24-1/2 a bushel.

But spring wheat was weaker after a Statistics Canada report showed that Canadian farmers planned to seed a bigger-than-expected 25.259 million acres of wheat.

MGEX July spring wheat was off 5-1/4 cents at $5.98-3/4 a bushel.

Gains in the corn market were kept in check by forecasts for warmer weather in the U.S. Midwest that should allow farmers to make headway in their much delayed planting tasks in the coming days.

CBOT July corn was 1-3/4 cents higher at $3.97 a bushel. Prices peaked at $3.98-3/4, the highest for the most-active contract since July 21.

"Temperatures will gradually rise across the core U.S. crop regions through the end of the month under high pressure dominance," Ed Whalen of Thomson Reuters Weather Research said in a report issued on Thursday.

He said rainfall would be "rather limited" in that region. (Additional reporting by Naveen Thukral in Singapore and Nigel Hunt in London, Editing by Andrea Ricci)