Corn and Wheat End 2017 With a Whimper; Soybeans Rise

By Jacob BungeFeaturesDow Jones Newswires

Agricultural futures wound down a quiet week of trading with little change in prices Friday, as soybean contracts settled slightly higher while corn and wheat fell.

January-dated soybean futures closed 6 cents higher, rising 0.6% to $9.51 3/4 a bushel, despite lower-than-anticipated export sales for the week ended Dec. 21, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture report early Friday.

Continue Reading Below

Other factors, including the weakening Argentine peso and rain in the forecast for dry South American growing regions, have also been working against U.S. soybean futures prices recently. But contract prices drew support Friday as investment managers bought contracts to close out earlier trades betting that soybean prices would fall, analysts said, after the January contract fell 3.4% this month.

"World demand is strong, but the world is also growing a lot of beans," said Doug Bergman, head of agricultural trading at RCM Alternatives. Since the start of 2017, soybean futures have declined 4.5%.

Corn futures prices slipped 0.4% Friday to close at $3.50 3/4 a bushel, after USDA export sales figures came in ahead of analysts' expected range and following promising weather forecasts for South American crops.

After briefly trading near $4 a bushel in July and then dropping below $3.30 in late August, corn futures ended 2017 less than 2 cents below the contract's closing price a year ago. The USDA anticipates another record domestic corn crop, the latest in a string of bumper crops that has filled up farmers' grain bins and kept prices steady and low.

Wheat contracts also edged lower Friday. March contracts settled 3/4 of a cent lower at $4.27 per bushel, as traders set aside concerns over the potential for bitterly cold temperatures to inflict lasting damage on wheat crops across North American growing regions.

For the year, wheat contracts gained 4.7%, despite U.S. farmers and grain companies struggling to compete against big wheat crops from Ukraine and Russia, which often have been priced more cheaply than U.S. versions on export markets.

As the New Year arrives next week, traders are looking ahead to a USDA report scheduled for Jan. 12, which will provide final production and stockpile figures as of Dec. 1 for U.S. crops.

Write to Jacob Bunge at jacob.bunge@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

December 29, 2017 15:34 ET (20:34 GMT)