January 30, 2020 / 4:56 PM / in 5 months

GRAINS-Soybean futures set eight-week low as coronavirus worries deepen

* Coronavirus adds to doubts over Chinese import demand

* Weekly U.S. soy export sales near low end of estimates

* Egypt buys French wheat in tender (Adds start of U.S. trading, changes byline/dateline, previous PARIS/SINGAPORE)

By Tom Polansek

CHICAGO, Jan 30 (Reuters) - U.S. soybean futures fell for an eighth consecutive session on Thursday and hit an eight-week low as the rising toll from the coronavirus outbreak added to concerns about Chinese demand for American crops.

Wheat also eased and set a three-week low as the market continued to pull back from a 1-1/2-year high touched last week. Corn, which has been supported by a recent run of U.S. export sales, tracked the other crops lower.

Traders are reluctant to buy breaks in agricultural markets until the extent of the outbreak is defined, said Rich Feltes, head of market insights for broker RJ O’Brien. They have been waiting for Chinese buying since Beijing this month pledged in an initial trade deal to significantly increase purchases of U.S. farm goods.

“Ag markets in retreat once again as concerns mount over whether coronavirus will undermine PRC’s ability to execute Phase 1 ag commitments,” Feltes said in a note, referring to the People’s Republic of China.

The most-active soybean contract on the Chicago Board of Trade was down 1% at $8.84 a bushel by 10:40 a.m. CST (1640 GMT). It traded as low as $8.80-3/4, its lowest price since Dec. 5.

CBOT wheat sagged 1.6% to $5.53-1/4 a bushel, and corn fell 1% to $3.80-1/2 a bushel.

The spread of the new virus, which has killed 170 people so far, has reinforced doubts about China’s demand for U.S. crops after a lack of fresh Chinese purchases since the trade agreement two weeks ago.

“Everyone is focused on the virus, which could hurt economic growth and curb demand,” said a Singapore-based trader at an international trading company.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported export sales of U.S. soybeans in the week ended Jan. 23 were 471,700 tonnes, near the low end of analysts’ expectations. Data showed 360,900 tonnes in weekly sales to China, the world’s top soybean importer, although 210,000 tonnes were sales previously reported to unknown destinations.

The USDA reported weekly export sales of old-crop U.S. corn were 1,234,700 tonnes and new-crop sales were 143,600 tonnes, both above trade estimates. Total weekly U.S. wheat sales of 647,000 tonnes were near the high end of expectations.

In other demand news, Egypt’s state grains buyer said it had bought 180,000 tonnes of French wheat in a tender for shipment March 11-25. (Reporting by Tom Polansek in Chicago. Additional reporting by Gus Trompiz in Paris and Naveen Thukral in Singapore; Editing by Susan Fenton and Jonathan Oatis)

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