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CHICAGO: US soybean futures retreated on Tuesday on improving crop prospects and a lack of fresh news about trade talks with China, the world's top importer of the oilseed.

Prices took a hit after soybeans climbed on Monday as hope for easing trade tensions between Washington and Beijing triggered short covering in the market, traders said.

After the close of trading on Monday, though, the US Department of Agriculture increased its good-to-excellent rating for the nation's soybean crop by 2 points to 55%, topping analysts' estimates for 54%. The agency raised its corn rating by 1 percentage point to 57%, matching expectations.

Mostly favourable crop weather fuelled some expectations that crop conditions may continue to improve.

"We're thinking that maybe the bean crop is getting a little better," said Ted Seifried, chief ag market strategist of the Zaner Group.

Chicago Board of Trade most-active soybeans were down 1% at $8.58-1/2 a bushel at 10:57 a.m. CDT (1557 GMT). Corn slipped 0.1% to $3.68 a bushel, while wheat rose 0.6% to $4.78 a bushel.

"Corn's just going to try to tread water for now," Seifried said.

Soybean traders are watching the trade war between Washington and Beijing because China is the world's biggest importer of the oilseed. China bought $12 billion a year worth of US soybeans prior to the dispute but slashed purchases as tensions escalated last year.

China's foreign ministry reiterated on Tuesday that it had not heard of any recent telephone call between the United States and China on trade, and said it hopes Washington can stop its wrong actions and create conditions for talks.

The ministry made the comment after US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said there had been contact between the two sides.

"The US-China trade war has faded as a factor today with the market wanting to see evidence of more concrete progress rather than general comments from the leaders," said Matt Ammermann, commodity risk manager with INTL FCStone.

Wheat faces headwinds from increased competition in global markets and large supplies in the Black Sea region, analysts said.

The market is awaiting results of an international tender from Egypt, the world's top importer, to buy wheat.

Copyright Reuters, 2019