U.S. wheat outlook: Markets attempt to stabilize

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CHICAGO (Dow Jones)--U.S. wheat futures are expected to stabilize Friday as the markets attempt to avoid steep losses hitting a range of commodities and equities.

Traders predict soft red winter wheat for December delivery, the most actively traded contract, will start steady to 2 cents a bushel higher at the Chicago Board of Trade. In overnight electronic trading, the contract edged up 3/4 cent, or 0.1%, to $6.34 1/2 a bushel. Wheat futures also rose overnight at the Kansas City Board of Trade and MGEX in Minneapolis.

Gains in the wheat markets are a sharp contrast to widespread losses in corn, soybeans, crude oil, gold and equities. Wheat avoided the slide overnight as money managers hold a net short position at the CBOT, meaning they did not have a large long position to liquidate. The strength overnight is "a reflection of a wheat market that doesn't have burdensome longs left" as corn and soybeans do, said Duane Lowry, analyst for Early Market News, an agricultural advisory service.

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission will issue updated data on money managers' holdings in the markets around 3:30 p.m. EDT Friday. A week ago, data showed the managers were net short 11,150 contracts in CBOT wheat as of Sept. 13, a turnaround from a small long position a week earlier.

Wheat futures have already pulled back sharply since the beginning of the month on spillover pressure from losses in the corn market and concerns about declining export demand. Prices at the CBOT sank 4.9% Thursday and are down nearly 18% from an 11-week high set in late August.

Poor demand from foreign buyers should keep a lid on wheat's gains as U.S. wheat prices are still too high to be competitive on the global export market, traders said. Russia has emerged as a low-cost competitor, repeatedly winning business from Egypt, the world's top wheat importer.

Yet, there is some support for prices from worries about lingering dryness in key growing areas of the U.S. Plains, traders said. Farmers in Texas and Oklahoma are desperate for rain as they attempt to plant the wheat crop that will be harvested next spring.



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