Grain Export Sales Fall Short, Pressuring Prices

Weak export sales of U.S. crops pressured grain and soybean futures on Friday.

The competitiveness of U.S. exports has been a continuing source of concern to traders in recent months, with sales of many crops lagging expectations. Analysts are increasingly skeptical that exporters will meet current government targets.

The most recent round of weekly sales were disappointing, market observers said, even given the quieter holiday period. Cumulative wheat sales of 131,000 metric tons and corn sales of 101,200 tons for the week ended Dec. 28 were below the range of pre-report estimates. Soybean sales of 560,800 tons were at the bottom end of estimates.

Corn sales in particular were "absolutely terrible," said Doug Bergman, head of agricultural trading at RCM Alternatives.

Analysts are concerned that stiff competition from countries like Brazil, which starts harvesting a new corn and soybean crop early this year, will limit the ability of the U.S. to export its surplus.

Wheat futures for March delivery fell 0.8% to $4.30 3/4 a bushel at the Chicago Board of Trade. March-dated corn futures traded lower for much of Friday's session before closing 0.1% higher at $3.51 1/4 a bushel.

Soybean futures were higher, sparked in part by concerns about excessively dry weather in Argentina. CBOT January contracts rose 0.2% to $9.61 1/2 a bushel.

Some overnight rain wasn't enough to relieve many of Argentina's dry patches, though weather forecasts show more substantial rains midway through January.

The overall pattern in Argentina is nevertheless drier and warmer than usual, said AgResource Co. in a note, cutting into soybean crop conditions and stressing the pollinating corn crop.

Outside markets weren't particularly supportive to grain and oilseed prices. Crude oil prices fell, pressuring the broader commodity sector, while the U.S. dollar was steady to higher.

Write to Benjamin Parkin at

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

January 05, 2018 16:06 ET (21:06 GMT)