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GRAIN MARKETS: Small price changes afoot for Wednesday

Profit taking snipes corn prices just before markets closed.

By Ben Potter

The U.S. corn and soybean harvest is moving right along (with soybeans moving more quickly than corn). Soybean harvest is moving quickly enough, in fact, that Tuesday brought modest price losses for that commodity. Soybean prices lost most of the gains they captured in overnight trading. Corn and wheat brought mixed results, meantime, but prices stayed close to unchanged.

Harvest weather will be mostly cooperative for Thursday, but small amounts of precipitation are possible in North Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin. It’s also a chilly day for some of the Midwest and Plains states, with daytime highs only reaching the low 40s or upper 30s for parts of North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota. The eastern Corn Belt will likely see daytime highs in the mid to upper 50s.

The Dow stumbled Wednesday after big gains on Tuesday – down more than 100 points at midday trading to 23,292. Investors found concerns with some lower-than-expected corporate earnings and are worried that the current Republican tax plan could affect worker 401(k) retirement account rules. Energy prices were mixed, with crude oil and diesel prices falling, and gasoline prices gaining nearly 1%.

Corn prices traded narrowly for much of the day before falling off in the last hour of trading due to profit taking after hitting a three-week high earlier in the session. December prices ended up 1.75 cents lower to close at $3.51, and March 2018 futures fell 1.5 cents to close at $3.6525.

Ahead of Thursday’s USDA report on grain exports, trade analysts predict corn exports for the week ending October 19 totaled between 31.5 million and 47.2 million bushels. That would put corn exports significantly lower than the week prior, which totaled 62.7 million bushels.

Ethanol production is back over 1 million barrels per day, but has not quite matched seasonal peaks set earlier in August and September. Production has increased for three consecutive weeks. However, for the first time since mid-August, the average corn belt ethanol plant margin is below breakeven. Margins have been fading consistently for the past four weeks. Ethanol prices have stalled considerably since mid-September, now falling below $1.40.

Preliminary volume estimates were for 284,867 contracts, down significantly from Tuesday’s total of 359,481.

Soybean prices ultimately didn’t see much change from a day ago, but sometimes looks can be deceiving. In reality, overnight gains were slowly erased throughout the day, with November futures ending the day unchanged at $9.7550, and January 2018 prices adding half a penny to close at $9.8625.

Ahead of Thursday’s USDA report on grain exports, trade analysts predict soybean exports for the week ending October 19 totaled between 44.0 million and 58.8 million bushels. That would put soybean exports in line or ahead of the week prior, which totaled 46.9 million bushels.

South Korea has purchased around 2.2. million bushels of soymeal for arrival around March 30, 2018. The soymeal will be sourced from South America.

Preliminary volume estimates were for 290,080 contracts, up moderately from Tuesday’s total of 356,486.

Wheat prices were mixed, with winter wheat prices down slightly on profit taking after prices nearly hit three week highs earlier in the day. December Chicago SRW futures fell 2.5 cents to close at $4.3550, while December Kansas City HRW prices were down 1.5 cents to close at $4.3250.

Ahead of Thursday’s USDA report on grain exports, trade analysts predict wheat exports for the week ending October 19 totaled between 11.0 million and 18.4 million bushels. That would be moderately than the week prior, when wheat exports totaled 22.6 million bushels.

Brazil is seeking approval to import 27.5 million bushels of wheat, sourced from all origins (including the U.S.) to compensate with reduced production in its southern states due to flooding and frost-damaged fields. Planted acres were approximately 10% lower this year, and total production is expected to be around 27% lower than a year ago.

Algeria has purchased 9.2 million bushels of durum wheat in a tender that closed Tuesday, for shipment in December. The purchase, which some estimated to be closer to 11 million bushels, was primarily sourced from Mexico and Canada.

Preliminary volume estimates were for 96,200 CBOT contracts, which was moderately higher than Tuesday’s total of 68,352.

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