By Karl Plume
June 18 (Reuters) - Chinese state-owned importers bought at least eight cargo shipments of U.S. soybeans on Friday, or at least 480,000 tonnes, the country's largest U.S. soybean purchases in 4-1/2 months, two U.S. traders familiar with the deals said.
The deals, which were for shipment from U.S. Pacific Northwest ports mostly in October, came after new-crop November soybean futures SX1 on the Chicago Board of Trade tumbled nearly 7% on Thursday to the lowest point since March.
China had slowed its U.S. soybean purchases in recent months as cheaper shipments of newly harvested Brazilian soybeans came available and as U.S. soybean prices soared to the highest in about 8-1/2 years.
But this week's price plunge gave the world's largest soybean importer a chance to secure purchases needed for later in the year to feed its hog herd, the world's largest.
Concerns are also growing that drought could reduce the U.S. harvest and further raise prices.
China has largely focused on feed grain purchases from the United States this spring, booking record volumes of U.S. corn and sorghum as China's domestic corn prices soared to historic highs.
CBOT soybean futures 0#S: rallied from multi-month lows on Friday, with new-crop November soybeans hitting a session high after Reuters confirmation of the Chinese purchases.
Total soybean sales volumes may increase while more purchases are tallied as traders said deals for as many as 14 cargoes were being considered.
(Reporting by Karl Plume in Chicago Editing by Chris Reese; editing by Jonathan Oatis)
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