February 15, 2018 / 5:25 AM / 6 months ago

GRAINS-Soybean prices hit 7-mth high on prolonged Argentina drought

* Argentina may harvest less than 50 mln T of soybeans -analyst

* Corn near six-month peak, also on Argentine drought (Adds analyst comment, updates prices)

By Manolo Serapio Jr

MANILA, Feb 15 (Reuters) - U.S. soybean futures climbed to their highest level in almost seven months on Thursday, propped up by fears that adverse weather conditions in Argentina will crimp production in the world’s No. 3 exporter.

Argentina could harvest fewer than 50 million tonnes of soybeans in the 2017-18 crop year, the lead analyst at the Rosario grains exchange said on Wednesday, as a prolonged drought looks set to continue harming yields.

The dryness in the heart of Argentina’s Pampas grains belt is likely to persist through the second half of February, climate experts said.

The most-active soybean futures for March delivery on the Chicago Board of Trade were up 0.3 percent at $10.19-3/4 a bushel by 0505 GMT. They earlier peaked at $10.20-1/2, their highest since July 25.

With the end of February less than a fortnight away, Commonwealth Bank of Australia analyst Tobin Gorey said in a note that “Argentina’s soybean crops need soaking rain within that horizon to arrest a big drop” in yields.

“Weather forecasters are not expecting anything like soaking rain, nor a decline in high temperatures,” he said. “We are expecting prices to gain further.”

The Argentina drought is also supporting corn prices, with the country the world’s third-biggest corn supplier.

CBOT March corn was steady at $3.67-1/4 a bushel, not far below Tuesday’s six-month peak of $3.68-1/2.

Analysts have similarly chopped their estimates for Argentina’s corn crop, with the Buenos Aires Grains Exchange last week cutting its corn harvest estimate to 39 million tonnes from 41 million tonnes for the 2017-18 season.

Chicago March wheat slipped 0.1 percent to $4.55-1/4 a bushel.

Reporting by Manolo Serapio Jr. Editing by Joseph Radford

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