Overseas inaction keeps grain prices firmOverseas inaction keeps grain prices firm
Afternoon report: Corn, soybeans and wheat all finish Monday’s sessions with moderate gains.
April 17, 2023
Some overseas drama unfolding in Argentina and eastern Europe kept grain prices in the green on Monday. (More on this below.) Corn prices were up 1.5% by the close, with soybeans trending around 1% higher. Wheat gains were variable, with most contracts finding gains that ranged between 1.25% and 1.75%.
It’s mid-April, but it sure doesn’t feel like that in the upper Midwest – particularly the parts of Wisconsin that are under a blizzard warning today. NOAA’s 8-to-14-day outlook expects widespread seasonally cool weather later this month, with 100% of the Corn Belt affected between April 24 and April 30. This outlook also predicts drier-than-normal conditions for the upper Midwest and Great Lakes region during this time.
On Wall St., the Dow eased 32 points lower in afternoon trading to 33,853 as investors reviewed a new batch of corporate earnings reports for clues about the health of the economy. Energy futures slumped lower, with crude oil facing cuts of 2.25% at $80 per barrel. Diesel dropped more than 1% lower, with gasoline down around 2.25%. The U.S. Dollar firmed moderately.
On Friday, commodity funds were net buyers of corn (+12,500) and CBOT wheat (+7,750) contracts but were net sellers of soybeans (-3,250), soymeal (-1,500) and soyoil (-750).
Corn prices captured gains of 1% to 1.5% as logistical hang-ups in Argentina and eastern Europe triggered a round of technical buying on Monday. May futures rose 10 cents to $6.7625, with July futures up 6.75 cents to $6.4250.
Corn basis bids were steady to soft across the central U.S. on Monday after easing a penny lower at an Illinois river terminal and dropping 5 cents at an Iowa processor today.
Corn export inspections came in better than expected for the week ending April 13, with a total of 47.8 million bushels. That was above all analyst estimates, which ranged between 27.6 million and 41.3 million bushels. Mexico was the No. 1 destination, with 12.7 million bushels. Cumulative sales for the 2022/23 marketing year are still significantly below last year’s pace, with 843.4 million bushels.
Prior to this afternoon’s crop progress report from USDA, analysts expect the agency to show corn plantings at 10% through April 6, up from 3% the prior week. Individual estimates ranged between 6% and 17%.
Preliminary volume estimates were for 342,670 contracts, slightly besting Friday’s final count of 341,414.
Soybean prices captured double-digit gains on the heels of a port strike in Argentina, which spurred a round of technical buying on Monday. Spillover support from rising corn and wheat prices also proved helpful today. May futures rose 15.5 cents to $15.16, with July futures up 17.5 cents to $14.8475.
The rest of the soy complex was also firm. Soymeal futures trended 1.25% higher, while soyoil futures found gains of around 1.5%.
Soybean basis bids held steady across most Midwestern locations on Monday but did shift 3 cents lower at an Iowa river terminal today.
Soybean export inspections fared well last week, with another 19.3 million bushels. That was toward the upper end of trade estimates, which ranged between 11.0 million and 26.6 million bushels. China was by far the No. 1 destination, with 10.3 million bushels. Cumulative totals for the 2022/23 marketing year are trending slightly above last year’s pace so far, with 1.715 billion bushels.
Prior to Monday afternoon’s USDA crop progress report, analysts think the agency will begin to report soybean planting progress, with an average trade guess of 2%.
The National Oilseed Processors Association (NOPA) reported that the U.S. soybean crush for March totaled 185.810 million bushels, climbing to a 15-month high and posting the second-best month on record. It was also moderately above the average trade guess of 183.411 million bushels. Soyoil stocks through March 31 reached 1.851 billion pounds, up from February’s tally of 1.809 billion pounds.
Brazilian consultancy AgRural reported today that the country’s soybean harvest is 86% complete through April 13, which is slightly behind last year’s pace of 87%. Most groups are pegging this season’s production at around 5.6 billion bushels, which would rewrite the record books, if realized.
Progress has stalled at Argentine ports today as grains inspectors initiated a 24-hour strike to protest high tax rates and rules that limit the number of terminals that are allowed to operate at a Buenos Aires port. “The strike will last all day, and more stoppages will take place throughout the week,” according to a statement from a shipbuilding union. Argentina is the world’s top exporter of soymeal and soyoil.
Preliminary volume estimates were for 206,743 contracts, sliding 12% below Friday’s final count of 233,815.
Wheat prices jumped higher after Slovakia joined two other European countries in banning grain exports from Ukraine. May Chicago SRW futures rose 12.75 cents to $6.9525, May Kansas City HRW futures added 8.5 cents to $8.8725, and May MGEX spring wheat futures gained 9.75 cents to $8.86.
Wheat export inspections totaled 8.8 million bushels and faded moderately below the prior week’s tally of 14.3 million bushels. It was also toward the lower end of trade estimates, which ranged between 7.3 million and 14.7 million bushels. Mexico topped all destinations, with 3.2 million bushels. Cumulative totals for the 2022/23 marketing year are tracking modestly below last year’s pace so far, with 642.6 million bushels.
Ahead of this afternoon’s crop progress report from USDA, analysts expect the agency to keep quality ratings steady, with 27% of the crop in good-to-excellent condition through April 16. Week 15 ratings have been below 31% just four times since USDA began reporting this data in the late 1980s. Spring wheat planting progress is at an estimated 5%, with individual trade guesses ranging between 3% and 10%.
Poland, Hungary and Slovakia have initiated an import ban on grains from Ukraine as these countries face mounting pressure to protect their domestic agriculture markets. Farmers and others have complained that Ukrainian grain imports have lowered prices and reduced sales. “Ukraine needs help, but the costs of this help should be spread over all European countries, not just the frontline countries, especially Poland. We do not agree to this, because it harms our farmers,” according to Poland’s agriculture minister.
Russian consultancy Sovecon estimates that the country’s wheat exports will reach 158.0 million bushels in April, a month-over-month decline of 4.4%, if realized. Russia is the world’s No. 1 wheat exporter.
Preliminary volume estimates were for 163,139 CBOT contracts, fading moderately below Friday’s final count of 179,480.
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