July 1, 2020 / 3:42 AM / 7 days ago

GRAINS-Corn at 3-1/2-month high as lower U.S. planting buoys prices

* Corn gains for 4th consecutive session to highest since March 20

* U.S. report shows farmers reduce planting as virus hits demand (Adds quotes in paragraphs 3-4, 8-9; details on fund positioning)

By Naveen Thukral

SINGAPORE, July 1 (Reuters) - Chicago corn futures rose for a fourth consecutive session on Wednesday to their highest in more than three months, underpinned by lower U.S. planting during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Soybeans and wheat rose for a third straight session.

“The USDA’s (U.S. Department of Agriculture) latest estimates of U.S. corn planting were well less than the market’s guess,” said Tobin Gorey, director of agricultural strategy at Commonwealth Bank of Australia.

“The USDA also reported their estimate of end-season 2018 U.S. inventories, which was not such a good news. The epidemic lockdowns severely cut corn use for ethanol among other things.”

The most-active corn contract on the Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT) was up 1% at $3.54 a bushel, as of 0316 GMT, the highest since March 20.

Soybeans gained 0.3% at $8.84-3/4 a bushel and wheat added 0.6% to $4.94-1/2 a bushel.

The USDA estimated farmers planted 92 million acres of corn this spring, a figure that fell short of analyst expectations. U.S. planting was 5 million acres below the USDA’s March forecast of 97 million acres, the biggest March-to-June drop since 1983.

“Analysts over-guessed most major acreage estimates, with their corn miss the most prominent,” Karen Braun, a market analyst for Reuters, wrote in a column.

“All these lower acreage numbers had people wondering what happened to the acres and to which crop or crops they were reallocated. But the acres were not planted at all.”

Soybean acreage was seen at 83.825 million compared with 83.510 million in March. Analysts had been expecting 84.716 million acres of soybeans.

Commodity funds were net buyers of CBOT corn, soybean, soymeal, wheat and soyoil futures contracts on Tuesday, traders said. (Reporting by Naveen Thukral, Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips)

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