Top Stories
Top Stories

GRAINS-Soybeans firm on U.S.-China deal hopes, corn upticks on weather

Gus Trompiz and Colin Packham

* Reports that U.S.-China trade deal close buoy markets

* Corn also steady on weather planting questions, potential Chinese purchases

* Wheat prices hesitant in pause after slide to 11-month low

* GRAPHIC-Commodity prices in 2019:

(Updates with prices; adds quotes; changes byline, dateline, previous PARIS/SYDNEY) CHICAGO, March 4 (Reuters) - Chicago soybean futures climbed higher on Monday amid news reports that Beijing and Washington are close to settling a lingering trade dispute, a breakthrough that could boost China's demand for U.S. soy and other agricultural products. Corn also rose, pulling away from a three-month low struck in the previous session. Wheat prices eased back in midday trading, but held above an 11-month low touched on Friday. Grain markets have been pressured by ample global supplies, underscored by a slowdown in Chinese demand for U.S. supplies during the standoff on tariffs with Washington. But rising expectations of a trade deal have raised the prospect of a revival of purchases by China of U.S. agricultural goods. Meanwhile, traders said, the market saw some technical buying on Monday, as flooding and ice buildup on key rivers in the U.S. Midwest has stalled the movement of barges that supply export terminals at the Gulf of Mexico with grain and soy.

Weather worries also gave corn a tiny boost in the markets on Monday, traders said. "We're hearing for people down in the Gulf Coast and in Texas, too, that the weather is causing some delays getting the initial corn plantings in," said Jack Scoville, a futures market analyst at the Price Group. "It's a small area for corn planting, for sure, but it's bringing into view for the market that we could have trouble with plantings elsewhere this season."

TRADE DEAL WEARINESS The United States and China appear close to a deal to remove tariffs, a source briefed on negotiations said on Sunday, while the Wall Street Journal reported that U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping could reach a formal trade deal at a summit later this month. Stock indexes around the world were higher early amid optimism the United States and China would reach a trade agreement soon.

A deal could be a boon for U.S. agricultural goods, which could soon be shipped into China without a duty for the first time since last summer. Though South American soybeans currently are priced cheaper than U.S. beans for April, traders said, other farm products - including meats, ethanol, corn, sorghum and DDGs - are expected to be appealing to Chinese buyers. But traders cautioned that the market has grown weary of the uncertainty of such a deal - not only for the timing, but details of when and how China's market will be reopened to the U.S. market. "Words and phrases like 'optimism' and 'a deal is close,' reigned this morning but the lack of concrete dates and details continue to overhang the trade," Arlan Suderman, INTL FCStone chief commodities economist, said in a note to clients on Monday. The most active soybean futures on the Chicago Board of Trade were up 0.77 percent at $9.18-1/2 a bushel by 11:42 a.m. CST (1742 GMT) on Monday, holding above the $9 threshold seen in hesitant trading on Friday. CBOT corn rose 0.67 percent to $3.75-1/2 a bushel to move off of Friday's three-month low of $3.66. Wheat inched down 0.27 percent to $4.56 a bushel, but held above Friday's low of $4.47-1/4, its weakest level since last April 4. Wheat lost 7 percent last week - its sharpest weekly fall in six months - as doubts that lower prices would boost export demand encouraged more selling by investment funds. U.S. wheat was offered cheapest in a tender by Iraq that closed on Monday, according to traders. It was not expected, however, to be the main origin chosen for a 625,000 tonne purchase announced by Saudi Arabia's state buyer, with traders saying northern European origins were more likely to claim the bulk of the order.

CBOT prices as of 11:38 a.m. CST (1738 GMT):

Last Net Pct Volume

change change

CBOT wheat WK9 454.75 -2.50 -0.6 42534CBOT corn CK9 375.00 2.00 0.5 92458CBOT soybeans SK9 918.25 6.75 0.7 75490CBOT soymeal SMK9 311.30 3.90 1.3 51888CBOT soyoil BOK9 30.13 -0.11 -0.4 36422

NOTE: CBOT May wheat, corn and soybeans shown in cents per bushel, May soymeal in dollars per short ton and May soyoil in cents per lb.

(Additional reporting by Gus Trompiz in Paris and Colin Packham in Sydney; editing by Tom Hogue, Ed Osmond and G Crosse)