Crop prices sag on uncertainty over U.S.-China trade deal

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* Trump comments fuel uncertainty about U.S.-China tariffs

* Traders expect improved U.S. weather for harvesting

* Corn underpinned by USDA’s cut to U.S. crop outlook (Adds start of U.S. trading, changes byline, dateline; previous LONDON)

By Tom Polansek

CHICAGO, Nov 11 (Reuters) – U.S. grain and soybean futures weakened on Monday as optimism faded over prospects for a trade deal with China.

The markets focused on the trade conflict after U.S. President Donald Trump on Saturday raised doubts about whether there had been an agreement to lift tariffs.

U.S. farmers have been hoping for an interim trade agreement to ease the dispute that has slowed shipments of American farm products, including soybeans, grain sorghum and pork, to China for more than a year.

“We’ve got more questions,” said Jim Gerlach, president of Indiana-based broker A/C Trading. “Are they or aren’t they on the trade?”

The most active soybean contract was down 12 cents at$9.19 a bushel at the Chicago Board of Trade by 11:30 a.m. CST (1730 GMT). The most-active corn contract was down 2 cents at $3.75-1/4 a bushel. CBOT’s most active wheat contract fell 3-1/4 cents to $5.07 a bushel.

The trade war is important for the markets because China is the world’s largest importer of soybeans and bought $12 billion worth of the oilseed from the United States in 2017. Shipments tumbled after Beijing imposed steep tariffs on imports of U.S. soy and other farm goods.

“The U.S. president continued to muddy waters over the weekend,” said Tobin Gorey, analyst for Commonwealth Bank of Australia. “What seemed clear on Friday morning, some degree of tariff rollback, is now less certain.”

Crop prices came under further pressure as traders were expecting drier U.S. weather to help farmers wrap up corn and soybean harvests that have been delayed by cold, wet weather. More snow and rain fell in parts of the Midwest on Monday.

The extended weather outlook calls for moderating temperatures and “mostly open weather,” said Rich Feltes, head of market insights for U.S. broker RJ O’Brien.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture will issue an update on harvest progress in a weekly report due out on Tuesday, one day later than normal due to the Veterans Day holiday.

The agency, in a monthly report on Friday, lowered its corn harvest outlook as cold and wet conditions late in the growing season cut into yields in key production areas such as South Dakota, Nebraska and Minnesota.

The USDA on Friday also raised its estimate for U.S. soybean ending stocks by 15 million bushels to 475 million bushels, topping market forecasts for 428 million. (Reporting by Tom Polansek in Chicago. Additional reporting by Nigel Hunt in London and Naveen Thukral in Singapore; Editing by Jan Harvey and Tom Brown)

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Godwin Okafor is a Financial Journalist, Internet Social Entrepreneur and Founder of Naija247news Media Limited. He has over 16 years experience in financial journalism. His experience cuts across traditional and digital media. He started his journalism career at Business Day, Nigeria and founded Naija247news Media in 2010. Godwin holds a Bachelors degree in Industrial Relations and Personnel Management from the Lagos State University, Ojo, Lagos. He is an alumni of Lagos Business School and a Fellow of the University of Pennsylvania (Wharton Seminar for Business Journalists). Over the years, he has won a number of journalism awards. Godwin is the chairman of Emmerich Resources Limited, the publisher of Naija247news.

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