CHICAGO (Dow Jones)--U.S. corn futures stumbled Monday in a setback from 30-month highs reached last week.

Corn for March delivery, the most-active contract, dropped 2 cents, or 0.3%, to $6.55 1/4 a bushel at the Chicago Board of Trade.

Futures prices retreated after rallying recently in an attempt to slow global demand for the grain and encourage U.S. farmers to expand plantings this spring to replenish supplies. End-of-season corn supplies are projected to fall to a 15-year low due to strong demand and a smaller-than-expected U.S. harvest last autumn

Traders took some money off the table amid concerns that demand may not be as robust as anticipated, analysts said.

Weekly U.S. corn export inspections of 25.9 million bushels, issued Monday for the week ended Jan. 20, fell short of expectations. Total weekly U.S. corn export commitments as of Jan. 13, 20 weeks into the marketing year, were 56% of the government's target for the year, slightly below the five-year average.

"The export pace is not flying away yet," said Dave Marshall, an Illinois-based independent commodities broker and marketing advisory.

Yet, traders said futures prices still hadn't climbed high enough to entice farmers to switch enough farm land to corn from other crops. In particular, corn is competing for acres with soybeans, which are also trading near 30-month highs.

Market participants said a corn plantings estimate issued Friday by private analytical firm Informa Economics was smaller than expected at 90.9 million acres. That was up 0.15% from the firm's December estimate and up 3% from a year earlier.

"The acreage battle is officially on," said Brenden Olson, an analyst for Country Hedging, a Minnesota-based brokerage firm.

In other markets, ethanol futures pulled back with corn following strong gains, traders said. Ethanol for March delivery slipped 1.2 cent, or 0.5%, to $2.337 per gallon at the CBOT.

Oat futures finished near unchanged as the market consolidated, a trader said. Oats for March delivery closed up 1 cent, 0.3%, at $3.87 a bushel at the CBOT.

 

-By Tom Polansek, Dow Jones Newswires; 312-341-5780; tom.polansek@dowjones.com