GRAIN MARKETS: Crops not rattled by outside markets

Corn, soybeans and wheat post gains in January.

Corn, soybeans and winter wheat had small gains on the final day of January to finish higher for the month. Tuesday's trading was light to moderate and avoided the volatility underway on Wall Street in gold and the dollar, all of which were rattled by recent Trump Administration actions on trade and immigration.

Asian markets remained quiet as China is on holiday until Thursday. Reports that OPEC's production cuts are working gave crude oil a lift early, but that market made only small gains by mid-afternoon.

In other markets, Wall Street was down 150 points when the crops closed and under 20,000. The dollar was lower and was at the lowest level since early December. Gold was higher as the dollar fell.

Exports highlights (U.S. Department of Agriculture and Reuters):

- Japan seeks to buy 108,442 metric tons of wheat in its regular tender. From the U.S., it seeks 20,300 mt of white wheat, 13,875 mt of hard red winter wheat and 29,945 mt of dark northern spring wheat. The remainder will be from Australia and Canada. The U.S. wheat is for March 21-April 20 loading.

- Ethiopia seeks to buy 720,000 mt of optional-origin milling wheat, with offers due by Feb. 3. Shipment will be within three months of when letters of credit are opened, which could be March to May.

Corn closed 2 cents higher in moderate trading to recover some of Monday's losses. It finished 7 cents higher for the month. Crop news was light, with no additional export sales reported after Monday's business to Colombia.

Tuesday's gains kept March above the 50- and 100-day moving averages but under the 20- and 200-day averages.

The corn harvest underway in Argentina and Brazil may be slowed by rain this week, but forecasts favor drier conditions next week. China's crop markets are closed for its Lunar New Year holiday. European corn for March was lower at about $4.62/bu. The prices reflect conversions from local currencies and metric tons.

The Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT) estimated Tuesday's corn volume at 234,226, compared with Monday's actual volume of 291,317. Open interest in Monday's market decreased by 9,243, with March down 21,207 and May up 4,752.

March corn settled 2 cents higher at $3.5975/bu., and May was up 2 cents at $3.67.

What to look for: Corn faces headwinds with China closed for the holiday, with the current feud with Mexico and with South America harvesting corn. After the crop markets closed, USDA said the U.S. cattle herd as of Jan. 1 was 2% larger than a year ago due to gains in the beef herd; the dairy numbers were about unchanged.

Soybeans closed a little higher in old-crop months after spending much of the session near unchanged. New-crop months finished 1-3 cents lower.

The higher close kept March about chart support at the 100- and 200-day moving averages of $10.10 and $10.15/bu.

Soybean meal and soybean oil also had small gains. With China on holiday, gains in the soybean complex may be hard to achieve as some Asian markets are closed until late this week.

Brazil is trying to harvest its soybeans, but rain this week may slow that process, although drier conditions are in the forecast next week.

CBOT estimated Tuesday's volume at 139,752, compared with Monday's actual volume of 222,974. Monday's open interest decreased by 9,816 contracts, with March down 12,219 and May up 3,015.

March soybeans closed 1.75 cents higher at $10.245/bu., and May was up 1.5 cents at $10.3425. New-crop November dropped 3 cents to $10.01.

What to look for: Attention is on South America, where Brazil is harvesting a huge crop that will pull export business away from the U.S.

Winter wheat closed higher for the day and month, while spring wheat was lower for the day but up for January.

Winter wheat area in the High Plains will be dry this week and next week, with warm weather expected in the 6- to 10-day period. Monthly condition ratings showed slight improvement in Oklahoma hard red winter wheat and Midwest soft red winter wheat but a slight decline in the Kansas crop.

CBOT estimated Tuesday's soft red winter wheat volume at 98,217, compared with Monday's actual volume of 107,243. Wednesday's open interest increased by 3,065, with March down 211 and May up 1,483.

Chicago, Ill., soft red winter wheat closed 6.75 cents higher at $4.2075/bu. for March, while May was up 5.25 cents to $4.335. Kansas City, Mo., hard red winter rose 3.75 cents to $4.295/bu. for March and rose 4 cents to $4.4225 for May. Spring wheat for March slipped 2.75 cents to $5.485/bu., and May was off 2 cents at $5.475.

What to look for: It is a long way to the spring growing season for winter wheat. Warm, dry conditions in the Plains are being watched.

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