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Soya firm after USDA data; focus turns to US-China talks

Chicago

US soyabean futures ended firm on Friday as late-session short-covering lifted prices from lows notched after the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) projected record large US soya stocks amid a still-unresolved trade dispute with top importer China.

Corn eased after the USDA released a flood of data on Friday, some of it delayed by the recent government shutdown, showing plentiful supplies and lighter US domestic demand, and large upcoming harvests in South America.

Wheat was mostly higher, supported by the USDA's estimate of the lowest US winter wheat acreage in more than a century and improving US export prospects.

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Given the lack of major surprises in the USDA data, grain markets struggled to break out of recent trading ranges. Traders remained cautious amid uncertainty over a US trade deal with China and moderating crop weather in Brazil and Argentina.

"We're right to be back to watching progress on trade talks and South American weather," said Terry Reilly, senior commodities analyst with Futures International.

Thursday's news that US President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping are unlikely to meet before a March 1 negotiating deadline, when US tariffs on Chinese goods are set to rise, dampened hopes of a breakthrough in trade talks.

The two sides will hold talks in Beijing this week, with deputy-level meetings to start on Monday and high-level talks to follow, a White House spokeswoman said on Friday.

Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT) March soyabeans ended higher, but were down 0.2 per cent in the week. It was the market's second straight weekly drop.

March corn was lower. The 1.1 per cent weekly decline was the market's third straight weekly loss.

CBOT March wheat was up four US cents but 1.3 per cent lower in the week after a steep decline in the prior session. The USDA projected US winter wheat acreage at the lowest in 110 years following years of expanding global production.

Wheat futures also drew some support from improving export demand after top importer Egypt bought two cargoes of US soft red winter wheat in a snap tender. REUTERS