Top Stories
Top Stories
Wires

GRAINS-U.S. soy, corn close higher ahead of next week's planting report

* Saudi Arabia eases bug-damage rules on wheat imports

China July soybean imports hit nearly one-year high (Updates prices)

By Barbara Smith

CHICAGO, Aug 8 (Reuters) - U.S. soybean and corn futures settled up on Thursday, as traders squared their positions ahead of a U.S. government report next week expected to clarify how many acres were planted of the two crops.

Dealers said a rebound in energy prices provided some support, although there remained ongoing concerns in the soybean market about the impact of a protracted trade war between the United States and China.

"The trade isn't necessarily bullish (on grains), but it's been leaning bearish for some time," said Arlan Suderman, chief commodities economist for INTL FCStone.

Suderman said the unknowns in the U.S. corn and soybean crops - given the amount of rain during planting season and the uncertainty over acreage - are also keeping the market a bit unsteady.

The most active soybean futures on the Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT) closed up 16-1/4 cents, or 2%, at $8.83 a bushel. CBOT's most active corn futures closed up 4-1/4 cents, or 1.6%, to $4.18-1/4 a bushel.

The forthcoming updated acreage report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has some analysts and grain traders nervous, said Jerry Gidel, agriculture economist with the Price Futures Group.

"I think some people didn't expect the USDA to go back and change almost all of the state-by-state numbers," Gidel said.

Dealers said Monday's USDA monthly supply and demand report was likely to provide a major short-term focus amid widely differing market assessments of this year's U.S. acreage.

A Reuters survey on soybean planted acres highlighted the contrasting views, with some expecting the USDA to raise its forecast while others anticipated a cut.

There is a clearer consensus on corn where planted acres are expected to be reduced, although analysts differed widely on the extent of the downward revision.

Dealers noted a rise in China's soybean imports in July while adding the increased pace was unlikely to be sustained.

China has halted U.S. agricultural purchases in a deepening trade war with Washington, while overall Chinese demand for soybeans is set to be cut by a swine disease that has decimated the world's biggest pig herd.

The most active CBOT wheat futures contract was up 10-1/4 cents, or 2.1%, at $4.98-1/2 a bushel.

Dealers said news that Saudi Arabia's state grain buyer is relaxing its bug-damage specifications for wheat imports kept a lid on the Paris market.

The change could open the way for Russia to become a major supplier to Saudi Arabia, partly at the expense of EU exporters such as Germany. (Reporting by Barbara Smith in Chicago; additional reporting by Nigel Hunt in London and Colin Packham in Sydney; editing by Matthew Lewis and Jonathan Oatis)