December 24, 2019 / 3:41 PM / a month ago

GRAINS-U.S. grain markets remain cautious, rangebound ahead of holiday

(Updates prices, adds quote, changes byline, changes dateline; previous SHANGHAI/PARIS)

By P.J. Huffstutter

CHICAGO, Dec 24 (Reuters) - U.S. soybean futures were mixed on Tuesday, slipping at one point from a six-week high hit in the previous session, as grain markets remained cautious and positive trade news with China weighed against disappointing export sales data, traders said.

The market has high expectations of top-consumer China ramping up soy purchases following an announcement of a Phase 1 China-U.S. trade deal, which includes a commitment by Beijing to increase purchases of U.S. agricultural products.

But with the holidays quickly approaching, U.S. Department of Agriculture’s weekly grain export inspections showed disappointing corn exports, and soybean exports at the lower end of market expectations.

“We continue to see debate in the market over the Phase 1 deal that is taking place between the U.S. and China,” said Karl Setzer, commodity risk analyst for AgriVisor. “Until the actual numbers are laid out, trade may be hesitant to base market positions on the proposal.”

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Tuesday he and Chinese President Xi Jinping will have a signing ceremony to sign the first phase of the trade deal agreed to this month.

China’s top agriculture consultancy said last week that the country will make good on a pledge to buy more than $40 billion of American farm goods.

The Chicago Board of Trade’s (CBOT) most active soybeans contract was up 0.03% at $9.34-1/4 a bushel around 1358 GMT.

Corn futures were little changed on Tuesday, as traders squared their positions ahead of the year-end holidays. And wheat futures moved modestly higher on light technical buying and positioning ahead of the Christmas holiday, due in part to seeing support from firming global cash prices.

The most active wheat contract was up 0.37% on Tuesday at $5.41-1/2 a bushel, while the most active corn futures contract was down 0.13% at $3.88-1/4 a bushel.

Meanwhile, export prices for Russian wheat rose for a sixth straight week last week due to a stronger rouble against the dollar and demand ahead of Russia’s New Year holiday, analysts said.

Morocco will suspend customs duty on soft wheat from Jan. 2 to April 30 to ensure regular supplies and stable prices in the domestic market, according to a draft decree seen by Reuters on Tuesday. The suspension of the 35% customs duty will be officially announced after a government meeting on Thursday. (Reporting by Emily Chow in Shanghai, Additional reporting by Sybille de La Hamaide in Paris; Editing by Rashmi Aich, Louise Heavens and Andrea Ricci)

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