* Corn market struggles to find a bottom after USDA stocks
* Bird flu fears pressure soybeans, soymeal, corn
* Wheat choppy as rumors of Chinese demand swirl
By Julie Ingwersen
CHICAGO, April 4 U.S. corn futures fell to a
nine-month low Thursday on continued technical selling and fund
liquidation, while soybeans hit a 10-month low on worries that
bird flu cases in China may slow feed demand there, traders
Wheat was lower in choppy trade but rumors of Chinese
purchases of U.S. soft wheat underpinned the market.
At the Chicago Board of Trade at 2:16 p.m. CDT (1916 GMT),
May corn was down 11-1/2 cents at $6.30 per bushel after
falling to $6.27, the lowest spot corn price since June 25.
May soybeans were down 8-1/4 cents at $13.72 per
bushel after dipping to $13.61, the lowest spot soybean price
since June 6.
May wheat was down 2-1/2 cents at $6.94 a bushel.
Corn posted the biggest declines on a percentage basis. The
market's move appeared mostly technical with sales accelerating
as front-month May corn fell below Tuesday's low of $6.34.
The corn market has been in liquidation mode since March 28,
when the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported
larger-than-expected U.S. grain stockpiles.
"With May and July taking out the recent lows, that's a very
negative technical signal. People who have been trying gently to
buy this market and maybe find a bottom - you've wrecked those
ideas," said Terry Linn, analyst with the Linn Group in Chicago.
The May and July corn contracts also lost ground
to new-crop December as traders scrambled to exit old
crop/new crop spread positions.
BIRD FLU WORRIES
Corn and soybeans were under pressure from fears that bird
flu might spread in China, reducing demand for soybeans and
soymeal, a key ingredient in chicken feed. China is the world's
biggest soybean buyer.
The developments weighed on markets even though the
immediate impact on the country's poultry sector was unclear.
"It's more psychological, more than having any impact on the
actual supply and demand for feed and meal," said Anne Frick,
oilseeds analyst with Jefferies Bache in New York.
China said in Thursday it was mobilizing resources to combat
a new strain of bird flu that has killed five people, as Japan
and Hong Kong stepped up vigilance against the virus and Vietnam
banned imports of Chinese poultry.
Still, some analysts said China was importing less soy than
a year ago, and Chinese imports could fall short of the U.S.
Department of Agriculture's forecast.
Strength in the dollar added pressure. The dollar and euro
soared more than 3 percent against the yen in their biggest
one-day moves since 2008 after the Bank of Japan unveiled a plan
to pump money into the economy that was seen as a radical
overhaul of policy.
A stronger dollar makes dollar-denominated commodities such
as soybeans less competitive on the world market.
"The firmer dollar is definitely keeping the road to higher
prices fully blocked," said Sterling Smith, futures specialist
with Citigroup in Chicago.
CHINA WHEAT RUMORS SWIRL
Wheat was choppy and pressured by USDA not confirming any
major Chinese purchases of U.S. soft red winter wheat, which had
been rumored. CBOT wheat had its biggest single-day rise in six
months on Wednesday on speculation China had bought 10 to 14
cargoes of the grain.
However, that talk continued to circulate on Thursday and
traders said basis bids for soft white wheat firmed in the U.S.
Pacific Northwest, a possible sign of fresh export demand.
Soft white wheat is grown in the Pacific Northwest,
primarily in Washington, while soft red winter wheat is produced
in the Midwest and the Mid-South.
Concern about weather conditions in a few areas underpinned
the market. Wheat crops in parts of Europe were being threatened
by cooler-than-normal weather that could hurt yields in some of
the world's top producers, notably France.
Analyst UkrAgroConsult cut Ukraine's 2013 grain crop
forecast by 1.5 percent to 52.4 million tonnes due to a
significant delay in spring grain sowing caused by snowfall
across central, northern and western regions.
But India is considering lowering the floor price for wheat
sales to private traders for exports from state warehouses,
government sources said. That would kick-start shipments by this
route as storage space for the world's second biggest producer
Prices at 2:15 p.m. CDT (1915 GMT)
LAST NET PCT YTD
CHG CHG CHG
CBOT corn 630.00 -11.50 -1.8% -2.6%
CBOT soy 1372.00 -8.25 -0.6% 14.5%
CBOT meal 397.10 -0.90 -0.2% 28.3%
CBOT soyoil 48.55 -0.60 -1.2% -6.8%
CBOT wheat 694.00 -2.50 -0.4% 6.3%
CBOT rice 1566.50 1.50 0.1% 7.3%
EU wheat 244.25 3.75 1.6% 20.6%
US crude 93.20 -1.25 -1.3% -5.7%
Dow Jones 14,593 43 0.3% 19.4%
Gold 1553.66 -3.49 -0.2% -0.6%
Euro/dollar 1.2939 0.0089 0.7% 0.0%
Dollar Index 82.6710 -0.0470 -0.1% 3.1%
Baltic Freight 866 -11 -1.3% -50.2%
(Additional reporting by Sybille de La Hamaide and Valerie
Parent in Paris and Naveen Thukral in Singapore; Editing by
Joseph Radford, Alison Birrane, Jeffrey Benkoe and Bob