U.S. soybeans plunge on renewed fears of trade war with China

CHICAGO (Reuters) - U.S. soybean futures plunged to 9-1/2-month lows on Wednesday, after a media report renewed fears that China could hit U.S. soybeans with retaliatory tariffs if Washington follows through on threats to slap duties on Chinese goods, traders and analysts said.

FILE PHOTO: An incoming truckload of soybeans is unloaded at a farm in Fargo, North Dakota, U.S., December 6, 2017. REUTERS/Dan Koeck/File Photo

President Donald Trump “is expected to impose tariffs on Chinese goods as soon as Friday or next week,” according to a story published late Tuesday by news outlet Politico.

The report rattled grains markets on Wednesday, as grain futures have been whipsawed by fears of a trade war between the world’s top two economies and by worsening trade ties between the United States and traditional allies Mexico, Canada and the European Union.

U.S. President Donald Trump will meet with top trade advisers on Thursday to decide whether to activate threatened tariffs, a senior administration official said Wednesday.

Benchmark Chicago Board of Trade July soybean futures closed down 1.9 percent on Wednesday at $9.36 a bushel after touching a low of $9.34-1/4, the lowest for a most active contract month since Aug. 31. Corn and wheat markets followed soybeans lower.

“There’s this fear that things have turned sour,” said Roy Huckabay, analyst with Linn & Associates, a Chicago-based brokerage.

China is expected to import 97 million tonnes of soybeans from all origins in the marketing year ending Aug. 31. The country imported more than 36 million tonnes of U.S. soybeans in the 2016/17 season, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data.

China has not been an active buyer of U.S. soybeans in recent weeks and the world’s top importer has yet to take delivery on at least 3 million tonnes of U.S. soybeans that buyers there have purchased, according to the USDA.

Those unshipped sales may be canceled if tariffs are imposed, traders said Wednesday.

The United States may also see China shift more of its buying to South America, where major producers Brazil and Argentina have expanded production and improved shipping infrastructure in recent years, they said.

“Normally this is the time of year that the Chinese importer comes forward. This kind of price break would be seen as very appetizing for them to make purchases, but we’re not seeing any of that,” said Dan Basse, president of AgResource Co.

“If they put tariffs on beans it will encourage South American growers to produce more and will hurt the United States in terms of export sales down the road,” he added.

Additional reporting by Julie Ingwersen in Chicago; Editing by Phil Berlowitz and James Dalgleish