Wheat futures on the Chicago Board of Trade fell 2.4 per cent to a two-week low on Wednesday in reaction to technical selling, a stronger U.S. dollar and lacklustre exports of U.S. grain, traders said.
Soybeans fell on chart-based selling and monthly data showing a slower-than-expected U.S. soybean crushing pace.
Corn was pulled down by soy and wheat in thin trading, along with favourable U.S. planting weather, but the lead July contract was underpinned by strong cash markets.
At the CBOT, benchmark July wheat settled down 17 cents at $6.93-3/4 per bushel, with sales accelerating as the contract fell below $7 (all figures US$).
July soybeans ended down two cents at $14.12-3/4 a bushel but pared losses after trading low as $14.02-1/4. July corn settled down 1-3/4 cents at $6.50-3/4 a bushel.
Wheat came under pressure as the dollar rose to a six-week high versus the euro on evidence that Europe was stuck in recession. A stronger dollar makes U.S. wheat less competitive on the world market.
"U.S. soft red winter wheat remains fairly competitive, but U.S. exports have been beaten down due to a pickup in shipments from India, and also Southeast Asian millers seeking Australian wheat," said Terry Reilly, analyst with Futures International in Chicago.
"Japan has been holding off on buying feed wheat. That tells me that global import demand is still kind of neutral," Reilly added.
Also bearish were forecasts showing a higher probability of rain in the Black Sea region.
"Dryness concerns for the former Soviet Union are easing somewhat, with better chances of rain for both the Ukraine and Russia over the next two weeks," FCStone said in a daily note.
U.S. soy crushing pace slows
Soybean futures were pressured by monthly data from the National Oilseed Processors Association (NOPA) showing a bigger-than-expected slowdown in the U.S. soybean crushing pace.
NOPA reported the soybean crush fell to 120.11 million bushels in April, from 137.08 million in March. Analysts had expected a monthly crush of 125.5 million bushels, according to a Reuters poll, as processors slowed output due to tight supplies of old-crop soybeans.
"It's lower than expected," said Anne Frick, oilseeds analyst with Jefferies Bache in New York. "Crushers are having difficulty obtaining beans, and are taking some downtime, which may have obviously started as early as April."
Technical selling played a role as well. July soybeans briefly dipped to $14.02-1/4, falling through support at the contract's 100-day moving average of $14.05.
In global news, an official Chinese think-tank forecast that China, the world's top soy buyer, would import a record 66 million tonnes of the oilseed in 2013-14, up 11.9 per cent from 2012-13.
That figure fell below the U.S. Agriculture Department's latest forecast for 2013-14 Chinese imports totalling 69 million tonnes.
Firm cash market underpins corn
Corn futures were lower but the front July contract gained against back months on firm cash markets and thin sales of old-crop corn. Farmers across the U.S. Midwest have been racing this week to catch up on planting, which has been running at a historically slow pace.
Also supportive was weekly data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration showing U.S. ethanol production in the latest week at 857,000 barrels per day, a three-week high.
Ethanol stocks fell to 16.43 million barrels, the smallest since November 2011.
"Everybody was talking about production being unchanged and it came out almost 1.7 per cent higher, so I took it as a little friendly," said Roy Huckabay with the Linn Group, a Chicago brokerage.
U.S. farmers are expected to make rapid progress in planting corn this week as dry weather provides a window of opportunity after wet and cold spring weather delayed seeding, which was at an all-time low.
"Analysts expect next week's U.S. government plantings report to show that between 55 and 60 per cent of the corn areas have been planted," Arnaud Saulais of Starsupply Commodity Brokers said.
-- Julie Ingwersen
covers the ag commodity markets for Reuters in Chicago. Additional reporting for Reuters by Ivana Sekularac in Amsterdam and Naveen Thukral in Singapore.