Soybeans Drop as China Bird Flu May Curb Meat Demand; Corn Falls

Soybeans fell to an 11-week low on concern that a new bird-flu strain in China will hurt meat consumption, reducing demand for livestock feed. Corn extended a slide to a nine-month low, and wheat dropped.

The H7N9 strain of avian influenza that emerged in eastern China infected at least 14 people, killing five of them, according to the official Xinhua News Agency. Officials in Shanghai closed a live poultry trading area and began culling birds after a test showed the virus in pigeons, the agency reported. China is the world’s largest hog producer and biggest buyer of soybeans, used to make livestock feed. The World Health Organization sees no evidence of human-to-human transmission.

“The Chinese bird-flu outbreak has everyone on edge because demand for imported soybeans could slow,” Mark Schultz, the chief analyst for Northstar Commodity Investment Co., said in a telephone interview. “People are worried this virus may expand.”

Soybean futures for May delivery fell 0.6 percent to close at $13.72 a bushel at 2 p.m. on the Chicago Board of Trade, after touching $13.61, the lowest for a most-active contract since Jan. 11. Prices are in a bear market, down 22 percent from a closing high on Sept. 4.

Outbreak Investigated

The extent of the outbreak, the source of infection and the mode of transmission are being investigated, and it’s too early to tell whether the cases may signal a pandemic, according to the WHO. The new strain of H7N9 hasn’t previously appeared in humans, the WHO said. One of the earliest infections was in a pork butcher, the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control said April 3.

Corn futures for delivery in May dropped 1.8 percent to $6.30 a bushel on the CBOT, after touching $6.27, the lowest for a most-active contract since June 29. Prices declined for the fourth time in five sessions since the government said U.S. March 1 inventories were larger than expected and farmers plan to sow the most acres since 1936.

Wheat futures for delivery in May slid 0.4 percent to $6.94 a bushel on the CBOT. Prices yesterday jumped 3.8 percent, the most in six months.

On the Kansas City Board of Trade, May wheat futures retreated 1.8 percent to $7.2175 a bushel, the first decline in three days, on speculation that rain in the next week will improve crop conditions across parts of the U.S. Great Plains.

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