Soybean futures climb, following as soymeal soars; corn retreats

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New throughout; updates prices, adds quotes, changes byline, changes dateline from previous PARIS/SINGAPORE

By Julie Ingwersen

CHICAGO, Feb 2 (Reuters) -U.S. soybean futures rose on Thursday, following as uncertainty about crop prospects in Argentina lifted soymeal futures to life-of-contract highs, traders said.

Corn futures fell on technical selling and a bounce in the U.S. dollar, which tends to make U.S. grains less competitive globally, although U.S. corn export sales in the latest week were larger than expected. Wheat futures inched higher in back-and-forth trade.

As of 1:13 p.m. CST (1913 GMT), Chicago Board of Trade March soybean futures SH3 were up 13 cents at $15.33-1/4, while March soymeal SMH3 was up $7.20 at $491.90 per short ton after setting a contract high at $493.60.

March corn CH3 was down 6 cents at $6.75 a bushel, retreating after failing to push through chart resistance around $6,86 to $6.88. CBOT March wheat WH3 was up 1-1/4 cents at $7.61 a bushel.

Soymeal futures climbed on worries about soy yield prospects in drought-hit Argentina, the world's top exporter of soymeal and soyoil. Much-needed rains fell in portions of Argentina's crop belt over the past week, but forecasts called for a return to hot and dry conditions.

"I think the weather in Argentina has hurt more than some are thinking. Maybe that's a reason this meal market stays so buoyant," said Sherman Newlin, an analyst with Risk Management Commodities.

Argentine officials this week said the country will take steps to help farmers hit by a historic drought, including a relief fund to tackle losses to the country's grain harvests.

Meanwhile, traders await the U.S. Department of Agriculture's next monthly supply/demand report on Feb. 8 to see if the agency adjusts its estimates of Argentina's crops, after a USDA attache report this week unofficially pegged the soybean crop at 36 million tonnes, well below the USDA's last official forecast of 45.5 million tonnes.

In contrast, forecasters continue to project a record soybean harvest in Brazil. Brokerage StoneX this week slightlyraised its forecast for the Brazilian soy crop to a record-high of 154.2 million tonnes.

CBOT corn futures turned lower despite strong U.S. export data. The USDA saidsales of old-crop corn in the week to Jan. 26 totalled nearly 1.6 million tonnes, topping a range oftrade expectations for 600,000 to 1.2 million tonnes. The total included sales of 319,500 tonnes to China, Newlin noted. EXP/CORN

Reporting by Julie Ingwersen; additional reporting by Gus Trompiz in Paris and Matthew Chye in Singapore; editing by Subhranshu Sahu, Jason Neely and Nick Zieminski


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