May 21, 2020 / 7:34 PM / 3 months ago

GRAINS-Soybeans, corn fall; wheat firms on crop concerns

* Wheat hits highest since May 11 as Russia cuts crop outlook

* Chicago corn futures steady after closing lower, soybeans ease (Updates with closing prices)

By Mark Weinraub

CHICAGO, May 21 (Reuters) - U.S. soybean futures sank 1.4% to a two-week low on Thursday, pressured by concerns about falling export demand from the world’s top soy importer due to rising tensions between Beijing and Washington, traders said.

“It does not take much,” said Mark Schultz, chief market analyst at Northstar Commodity. “You have got a little bit more heated rhetoric between the two countries.”

Traders shrugged off a weekly U.S. Agriculture Department report that showed export sales of soybeans rose to a bigger-than-expected 1.669 million tonnes. The report showed sales to China of 1.199 million tonnes in the week ended May 14 but no fresh deals have been reported since then.

Corn futures also were lower, with traders noting some commercial hedging after farmers booked sales of supplies they have been holding in their bins since last year’s harvest.

“A bunch of farmers have been selling old crop corn this week, pocketing the money ... and making room for a new crop that promises to be, literally, a bin-buster,” Charlie Sernatinger, global head of grain futures at ED&F Man Capital, said in a note to clients.

Wheat firmed for the third day in a row, supported by tight supplies in Russia, a key exporter.

Chicago Board of Trade July soybean futures settled down 11-3/4 cents at $8.35 a bushel.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo took fresh aim at China over the novel coronavirus on Wednesday, calling the $2 billion Beijing has pledged to fight the pandemic “paltry.”

CBOT July soft red winter wheat was up 2-1/4 cents at $5.16 a bushel. Wheat futures, which had not risen for three days in a row since March, peaked at a 10-day high early in the session but eased off after hitting technical resistance.

CBOT July corn futures were down 1-3/4 cents at $3.17-3/4 a bushel. (Additional reporting by Naveen Thukral in Singapore and Maytaal Angel in London; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta, Emelia Sithole-Matarise and Paul Simao)

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