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Wheat Futures Rise on Concerns About Radioactivity in Russia

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November 21st, 2017

Wheat futures rose on Tuesday over concerns about radioactive contamination in Russia, analysts said.

Russian weather officials6 confirmed a sharp increase in radioactivity in the Ural Mountains, said AgResource Co. in a note to clients, following prior warnings from French officials. Analysts said the source of the contamination was unclear, though they didn't expect a major threat to crops.

Russia, the world's largest wheat exporter, is fresh from producing a bumper harvest that has helped depress global prices and prompted speculative traders to bet that futures will trend lower. The possibility of a threat to that supply was enough to spark caution among traders on Tuesday.

Radioactivity levels were "not seen to be high enough to create human or environmental risks, but traders holding large short positions are reducing their risk exposure a bit," said Arlan Suderman, chief commodities economist at INTL FCStone Inc.

Wheat futures for December rose 0.7% to $4.24 3/4 a bushel at the Chicago Board of Trade on Tuesday, though they didn't reclaim all of Monday's losses. Prices have stayed within a narrow range of less than 20 cents through November.

A lower dollar also supported wheat prices, giving U.S. exporters a boost by making their crop more affordable relative to cheap Russian grain. The WSJ Dollar Index, which measures the greenback against a basket of global currencies, fell 0.2% to 87.22.

Corn and soybean markets, meanwhile, were steady to lower. CBOT December corn futures closed unchanged at $3.45 a bushel while January oilseed contracts fell 0.1% to $9.89 a bushel.

Weather influences were mixed. Rain in Brazil is ensuring crops in that country, another major exporter, get a healthy supply of moisture.

Concerns about Argentine conditions lingered, however. The Commodity Weather Group said rain this week wouldn't be enough to relieve all of the country's growing regions, with around a third of corn and soybean crops drying out over the next two weeks.

 - Benjamin Parkin at Wall St. Journal.

See Also: Corn Futures, Soybean Futures, Wheat Futures