U.S. soybean futures rose on Wednesday as delays in getting recently harvested crops in Brazil to ports bolstered export demand for U.S. supplies, traders said.
"Even with the South American harvest coming on, the United States is still selling soybeans to China as South American vessels are waiting to load soybeans out of their ports," said Brian Hoops, senior market analyst at Midwest Market Solutions.
Wheat futures closed mixed, with the front-month Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT) soft red winter wheat contract giving up gains late in the day on a round of profit taking. Deferred contracts and hard red winter wheat at the Kansas City Board of Trade remained firm due to signs of rising interest from overseas buyers.
"It seems to me that we are close to (getting), or have already gotten, some business on wheat," said Bill Gentry, a broker with Risk Management Commodities. "That's giving you an underlying bullish tone."
Corn also was mixed, with the front-month contract firming due to short covering. Deferred corn contracts sagged amid expectations of large plantings in the U.S. in the spring, followed by a strong harvest in the fall.
CBOT soft red winter wheat futures for March delivery ended down 1-1/2 cents at $7.04-1/4 a bushel (all figures US$).
Kansas City's March hard red winter wheat was 1-1/2 cents higher at $7.34-1/4 despite improving crop prospects following heavy snowstorms in the U.S. Plains.
CBOT March corn rose 5 cents to $7.10/bu. CBOT March soybeans added 9-3/4 cents at $14.57-1/2 a bushel.
The U.S. Agriculture Department on Wednesday morning said private exporters had reported the sale of 240,000 tonnes of U.S soybeans, including 120,000 tonnes to China.
Soybean prices received additional support on bargain hunting after falling for three days in a row and shedding 2.7 per cent of their value during the losing streak.
Traders said the market is closely watching Brazil's soybean crop progress for any signs of disruption or transport problems.
"The world urgently needs new-crop soybeans from Brazil after the poor U.S. and South American harvests last year, and any harvest delays may well cause markets to rise because this would cause almost immediate supply tightness," a European trader said.
Brazil's 2013-14 soybean harvest has accelerated in the past week as weather over the grain belt turned drier and allowed producers to make progress in collecting what is expected to be a record crop.
-- Mark Weinraub is a Reuters correspondent covering the grain futures markets from Chicago. Additional reporting for Reuters by Michael Hogan in Hamburg and Naveen Thukral in Singapore.