GRAIN HIGHLIGHTS: Top Stories of the Day

Features Dow Jones Newswires

TOP STORIES:

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U.S. Farmers, Who Once Fed the World, Overtaken by New World Powers

GREENVILLE, Ill. -- On a pancake-flat stretch of land not far from the Mississippi River, Illinois farmer Jerry Gaffner thumbs through weather forecasts and crop reports on his tablet computer, searching for clues about when to market his soybean crop.

The data streaming in isn't from Illinois or even the American Midwest. It is from half a world away in Brazil, where farmers are harvesting what's expected to be a record soybean crop. With 43% of the export market -- up from just 12% 30 years ago -- Brazil can sway global prices with a weather hiccup or transportation snarl, spurring U.S. farmers to sell crops and capture profits, or to bunker grain and hold off until prices improve.

Mr. Gaffner pays close attention to South American conditions because of the new reality facing U.S. farmers: America's agricultural dominance has eroded.

Grain and Soybeans Futures Fall on Technical Pressure

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CHICAGO -- Grain and soybean futures fell across the board on Wednesday, reversing gains made overnight.

With traders starved of positive news, small overnight rallies that are promptly erased during day trading have become a pattern, said Brian Hoops, president of brokerage Midwest Market Solutions.

Grain and soybean prices were trying "to climb a bit further up and possibly even out from the hole they have been pushed into during the past few weeks," said Dan Hueber, manager of advisory firm the Hueber Report.

CBOT May corn futures fell 1.1% to $3.57 3/4 a bushel, the lowest close since March 30. CBOT May soybean futures, meanwhile, fell 0.4% to $9.46 3/4 a bushel.

In Grain Market Battle, US Rivers Need TLC -- Market Talk

14:18 ET - For a competitive edge in the increasingly tough global grain markets, US farmers and agribusinesses are looking to the mighty Mississippi, which for decades has provided cheap transport of US corn and soybeans -- but increasingly requires maintenance at the same time that Brazil is developing the Amazon and other waterways to boost its own farm sector. "The relative competitiveness between the US and Brazil is narrowing, not so much because the US is getting worse, but because Brazil is getting much better," says Soren Schroder, CEO of grain giant Bunge (BG), which ships crops from both countries. "Over time to keep the advantage we have to reinvest to make sure the Mississippi River remains a viable high-volume corridor. There are parts that are decrepit." (jacob.bunge@wsj.com; @jacobbunge)

STORIES OF INTEREST:

In Age of Plenty, Farmers Tighten up -- Market Talk

15:19 ET - Amid a global surplus of grain brought on by big harvests in the US, South America and Eastern Europe, crop prices have fallen, and US farmers are straining to tighten up operations and maximize efficiency. When spraying rows of crops with pesticides, "I don't need three feet of overlap, I need two inches," says Tommy Young, an Arkansas farmer who grows soybeans, corn, wheat and other crops. With farmers in countries like Brazil, Argentina and Russia boosting their own crop yields, "efficiency is relative to the world," Young says. (jacob.bunge@wsj.com; @jacobbunge)

Foreign Farm Powers Investing in Research -- Market Talk

14:12 ET - One factor behind the rise of foreign-based agricultural powers like Brazil: government-funded crop research, which has helped overseas farmers close the gap with their US peers, says Dan Glickman, vice president of the Aspen Institute Congressional Program and a former USDA secretary. More problematic, he says: The US has been spending less on such research, leading farmers to depend more on the R&D departments of seed companies and equipment manufacturers. Government research is "one of the reasons the Brazilians have been so aggressive and successful" in boosting harvests, Glickman says. "We have to play it right and invest in our future." (jacob.bunge@wsj.com; @jacobbunge)

Danone Raises Guidance After Closing WhiteWave Buy

Danone, the world's biggest yogurt maker, raised its guidance for recurring earnings per share growth for 2017, days after closing its $10.4 billion acquisition of WhiteWave.

The French company said it was now targeting double-digit recurring EPS growth at constant exchange rates, instead of a rise of "at least 5%" it had targeted in February when it didn't include WhiteWave.

Meanwhile, the company said its sales in the January-March period rose 3% to EUR5.46 billion, helped by organic growth of 0.7%. That performance was in line with the average estimates of analysts.

THE MARKETS:

Cattle Futures Extend Gains as Hogs Fall

CHICAGO--Cattle futures extended their highs on Thursday, building on the momentum of an active cash market earlier this week.

After a recent slowdown in the cash trade, sales between packers and feedyards took an upturn on Wednesday. Cattle sold for between $1.30 and $1.32 a pound in southern states, with a few more sales at $1.33 further north.

CME June lean hog futures fell 1.8%, to 68.675 cents a pound. Futures prices have fallen sharply this week.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

April 20, 2017 17:37 ET (21:37 GMT)