* Soybeans rise for first time in 5 sessions, corn ticks up
* Wheat struggles as spreading virus raises economic worries (Adds details on fund positioning, quote in paragraph 3)
By Naveen Thukral
SINGAPORE, March 17 (Reuters) - Chicago soybean futures rose for the first time in five sessions on Tuesday with bargain buying supporting prices, although gains were limited by concerns over the economic damage from the fast-spreading coronavirus.
Wheat was little changed after Monday’s slide to its lowest since October, while corn recovered from a six-month low to trade higher.
A bit of bargain buying and issues around food security are supporting prices of grains and oilseeds, said Phin Ziebell, agribusiness economist at National Australia Bank.
Most Asian shares fell a day after Wall Street’s historic market rout, with fleeting initial gains evaporating as the coronavirus remained a major risk to economic growth.
The most-active soybean contract on the Chicago Board Of Trade added 0.8% at $8.28 a bushel by 0251 GMT, having slumped 3.2% on Monday when prices hit their lowest since May 24 at $8.21 a bushel.
Corn was up 0.3% at $3.55-3/4 a bushel after hitting a trough of $3.53-3/4 a bushel earlier in the session - the lowest since Sept. 12. Wheat was unchanged at $4.98 a bushel, having dropped to its lowest since Oct. 11 at $4.91-3/4 a bushel on Monday.
Grain prices have come under sustained pressure as the coronavirus pandemic threatens demand for commodities although food demand is likely to provide a flood under agricultural markets.
The U.S. Agriculture Department said on Monday morning that weekly export inspections came in at 977,879 tonnes for corn, 449,653 tonnes for wheat and 436,358 tonnes for soybeans. The weekly totals were in line with market forecasts.
The U.S. soybean crush in February topped most analysts’ forecasts and hit the highest level on record for the shortest month of the year, according to data issued by the National Oilseed Processors Association (NOPA) on Monday.
The association said its members, who handle about 95% of all soybeans crushed in the United States, processed 166.288 million bushels of soybeans last month, down from the 176.940 million bushels crushed in January, an all-time high for any month, but up from the February 2019 crush of 154.498 million bushels.
Commodity funds were net sellers of CBOT corn soybean, soyoil, soymeal and wheat futures contracts on Monday, traders said. (Reporting by Naveen Thukral; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu)