(Recasts; updates with closing prices)
By Mark Weinraub
CHICAGO, March 3 U.S. corn, soybean and wheat
futures all closed modestly higher on Friday, recovering from
early weakness on a mild round of technical buying.
All three commodities posted weekly gains but an ample
supply base and rising export competition kept a bearish tone
over the marketplace and checked Friday's strength.
Additionally, investors were wary of making big bets.
"Some traders (are) headed to the exits rather than get
bruised by more volatile trading into the weekend," Farm Futures
senior analyst Bryce Knorr said in a note to clients.
Gains in soybeans were limited by expectations the South
American export pace will pick up after slowing this week.
At least 11 ships are facing delays in loading soybeans at
Brazil's northern ports after rains washed out roads and
disrupted the progress of trucks carrying beans from the
center-west region, Brazilian officials said on Thursday.
"The export flow may pick up again next week, provided
weather conditions have allowed enough road repairs to take
place," said Tobin Gorey, director of agricultural strategy at
Commonwealth Bank of Australia.
Chicago Board of Trade May soybean futures settled up
1/4 cent at $10.37-1/2 a bushel. For the week, soybeans rose
CBOT May corn rose 1-1/4 cent at $3.80-3/4 a bushel.
Corn notched a weekly gain of 4.6 percent, its biggest weekly
rally in nine months.
Soybean and corn futures rallied sharply earlier this week,
supported in part by reports of potential changes to U.S.
biofuel policy to boost production. Corn is the primary U.S.
feedstock for ethanol and soyoil is used in biodiesel.
"The biofuel rumors in the U.S. have thrown uncertainty and
confusion back into the market. They come as U.S. farmers are
deciding which spring crops to grow," said David Sheppard,
managing director at UK merchant Gleadell.
CBOT May wheat was 3/4 cent higher at $4.53-1/2 a
bushel. Wheat futures rose 1.0 percent this week.
Russia, among the world's largest wheat exporters, is
considering exporting part of its 4 million tonne state grain
stockpile to free up storage space before the new crop arrives,
industry sources said.
(Additional reporting by Nigel Hunt in London and Naveen
Thukral in Singapore; Editing by W Simon and Diane Craft)