U.S. soybean futures rose for a third straight day on Thursday, led by strength in Chinese soy markets tied to encouraging economic data that country, the world's biggest soy importer.
Wheat firmed for a second day on worries about global crop weather, but corn turned lower on chart-based selling and concerns about ethanol plants shutting down.
As the Chicago Board of Trade as of 1:40 p.m. CDT (1840 GMT), most-active January soybeans were up 12 cents, or 0.8 per cent, at $15.60-3/4 per bushel. December wheat was up 3-3/4 cents, or 0.4 per cent, at $8.68-1/4 a bushel, while December corn was down 2-3/4 cents, or 0.4 per cent, at $7.53 a bushel.
Soybeans got a boost from data showing private sector factories in China were at their busiest in eight months in October. The data followed other signs in October of economic revival in the country and could signal stepped-up demand for soy.
"The economic data was interpreted favorably, leading to some ideas that they are going to import more beans," said Jerrod Kitt with the Linn Group, a Chicago brokerage.
Most-active May soybean futures on China's Dalian exchange rose 2.2 per cent on Thursday, the contract's biggest one-day rise since July 30, a factor that also buoyed Malaysian palm oil futures.
China will harvest a smaller soybean crop this year than in 2011 because of fewer plantings in a key province, the U.S. agricultural attache in Beijing said on Thursday.
CBOT soybeans were further strengthened by concerns that the South American soy crop may be smaller than anticipated as wet weather delays plantings.
Wheat firm, corn retreats
Wheat futures rose on technical strength and concerns about production in Russia and the United States.
Agricultural analysts SovEcon cut their forecast for Russia's 2012 wheat crop to 37.5 million tonnes, from 38 million previously, to reflect weak harvest data, SovEcon's chief executive said.
"This is the lowest figure since 2003/04 and is below the USDA's estimates," Germany's Commerzbank said in a daily note.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Wednesday issued its first condition ratings of the new winter wheat crop, saying 40 per cent was rated in good to excellent condition, below the 46 per cent rating of a year ago.
The hard red winter wheat crop in the southern Plains needs moisture, and crops in some areas were emerging more slowly than normal.
Early harvested Australian wheat has shown lower-than-average protein levels, while yields have fallen as a result of unfavorable weather, traders and analysts said.
CBOT December corn futures climbed to a one-week high before hitting technical resistance just above the 50-day moving average at $7.63 per bushel.
After the contract failed to move higher, selling picked up, CBOT floor traders said.
Some also noted poor profit margins for ethanol that prompted some producers to idle their plants, reducing demand for corn. Firm cash markets for corn and falling gasoline prices have hurt ethanol plants' profitability.
"That end-user (of corn) is going to struggle unless margins change," said Jason Ward, analyst with Northstar Commodity in Minneapolis.
Nonetheless, U.S. ethanol production rose 3 per cent in the last week to 825,000 barrels a day, the Energy Information Administration said Thursday. Stockpiles stood at 19.2 million barrels as of Oct. 26, up 2.4 per cent from the prior week, the government report said.
Julie Ingwersen reports for Reuters from Chicago