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GRAINS-Soy at multi-month lows on demand woes; corn sags, wheat steadies

Julie Ingwersen

(Updates prices, adds quotes, changes byline, changes dateline from previous HAMBURG) CHICAGO, April 23 (Reuters) - U.S. soybean futures fell to a seven-month low on Tuesday as traders focused on demand destruction resulting from the ongoing U.S. trade war with top global soy buyer China as well as the effects of a devastating disease in China's hog herd. Corn futures fell to contract lows, pressured by ample U.S. and global supplies, while wheat futures steadied after recent declines. As of 11:40 a.m. CDT (1640 GMT), Chicago Board of Trade May soybeans were down 15-3/4 cents at $8.61-1/4 per bushel, the contract's lowest since Sept. 19. CBOT May corn was down 4 cents at $3.50-3/4 a bushel after hitting a contract low at $3.50-1/4, and CBOT May wheat was up 1-1/4 cents at $4.37 a bushel. Soybeans led the way down as traders considered bearish fundamentals. "You've got two big issues with China: your unresolved trade war, and African swine fever, both of which are giant issues when it comes to demand," said Joe Vaclavik, president of Standard Grain. African swine fever, which is fatal to pigs but harmless in humans, has spread to every province on the Chinese mainland since its initial detection in August 2018, raising concern about a drop in Chinese demand for feedstuffs including soy and corn. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has projected that U.S. soybean stocks at the end of the 2018/19 marketing year will reach 895 million bushels, more than double the previous year. "The weight of this year's fundamentals are being felt by the market as the realization hits that a China trade deal likely will not 'fix' the balance sheet," INTL FCStone chief commodities analyst Arlan Suderman wrote in a client note. CBOT corn futures fell to contract lows in the front five contracts. U.S. farmers are holding a sizable amount of un-priced grain that has yet to hit the market, Vaclavik said. "When the farmer is undersold, it's hard to rally ... You've got a lot of corn and beans that need to be priced, and the market knows it," Vaclavik said. Others noted pressure on prices from optimism that U.S. farmers would be able to plant corn this spring despite wet conditions that have delayed field work. "Traders believe that farmers can get the crop planted given a 10-day window to do so," Suderman wrote. Wheat futures firmed slightly, with the CBOT May contract up after falling nearly 2% a day earlier. But K.C. hard red winter wheat futures set contract lows. "Demand isn't good ... and crop conditions are good," Vaclavik said. The USDA on Monday rated 62 percent of the U.S. winter wheat crop in good to excellent condition, up from 60 percent a week earlier. A year ago, the USDA rated just 31 percent of the crop as good to excellent.

CBOT prices as of 11:39 a.m. CDT (1639 GMT):

Net Pct VolumeLast change changeCBOT wheat WK9 437.00 1.25 0.3 34889CBOT corn CK9 350.75 -4.00 -1.1 130659CBOT soybeans SK9 861.25 -15.75 -1.8 114390CBOT soymeal SMK9 300.40 -2.10 -0.7 41040CBOT soyoil BOK9 28.21 -0.49 -1.7 42437

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 Michael Hogan in Hamburg and Naveen Thukral in Singapore; editing by Edmund Blair and Marguerita Choy)