July 16, 2020 / 4:26 AM / 22 days ago

GRAINS-Wheat eases from three-month peak, export talk limits losses

* Unconfirmed reports say China has purchased U.S. wheat

* Soybeans rally as USDA confirms Chinese purchases

* Corn rallies nearly 1% on strong demand, supply concerns

By Colin Packham

SYDNEY, July 16 (Reuters) - U.S. wheat futures on Thursday eased from a near three-month high touched in the previous session, as traders locked in profits, though reports that China stepped up purchases of U.S. supplies limited losses.

Corn rose nearly 1%, while soybeans climbed nearly 0.5% on the back of strong Chinese demand.

The most-active wheat futures on the Chicago Board Of Trade were down 0.1% at $5.50-1/2 a bushel after gaining 4.6% in the previous session, when prices hit an April 23 high of $5.52 a bushel.

Traders said unconfirmed reports of Chinese purchases were driving the gains.

“China buying U.S. wheat has been the catalyst,” said a Melbourne-based grain trader. He declined to be named as he was not authorised to talk to the media.

The most-active soybean futures were up 0.4% at $8.86 a bushel, having closed 0.6% firmer on Wednesday.

Private buyers booked at least five cargoes of U.S. soybeans on Wednesday, or at least 300,000 tonnes, for shipment mostly in October and November from Gulf Coast and Pacific Northwest ports, two U.S. export traders with knowledge of the deals said.

The National Oilseed Processors Association said its members crushed 167.3 million bushels of soybeans last month, topping the range of trade estimates.

The most-active corn futures rose 0.8% to $3.28-3/4 a bushel, after closing little changed in the previous session.

Earlier this week, China booked its biggest single-day purchase on record of U.S. corn on Tuesday, buying 1.762 million tonnes.

The latest deals came despite concerns that the biggest buyer of American agricultural goods would slow its import pace after U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order ending preferential economic treatment for Hong Kong.

The increased demand also comes amid concerns about the state of corn crops in the United States.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Monday rated 69% of the U.S. corn crop as ‘good-to-excellent’, down from 71% last week. (Reporting by Colin Packham, Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips)

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