Today’s weekly export sales report from USDA for the week ending December 24 was largely met by the morning’s markets with a yawn. The updated figures – though largely bullish for the corn, soybean, and wheat markets – had little impact on futures prices, though it contained several key insights about where grain markets may be heading in 2021.
Bullish report for soybeans
Soybean export sales for the 2020/21 crop surpassed analyst expectations for the week ending December 24. The trade anticipated new weekly sales ranging between 7.3 million – 25.7 million bushels. But today’s figures exceeded that estimate as sales increased by 74% from the previous week to 33.7 million bushels.
Export cancellations on 2020/21 soybean shipments rose by 23% to 7.9 million bushels – not surprising, considering the holiday price rally that likely set up a level of price resistance for smaller buyers.
New crop soybean export sales also saw bullish prospects. For the week ending December 24, 2021/22 soybean export sales nearly doubled to 11.6 million bushels. The weekly haul brought outstanding new crop soybean export sales volumes to 29.8 million bushels, four and half times the volume of outstanding new crop soybean sales for the same reporting period a year ago.
Monday’s export inspections report from USDA suggested export loading paces for soybeans would take a beating in today’s report. However, finalized data indicated this would not be the case. While Monday’s report showed weekly soybean loadings cut in half, revised figures out this morning from USDA show that weekly soybean export loading paces only fell slightly – by 3% - to 89.6 million bushels.
Shipments to China topped the list of international soybean buyers for the week. Over 53.8 million bushels of soybeans were shipped to the world’s second-largest economy, with another 4.3 million bushels destined for Egypt.
U.S. soybean export paces typically slow in mid-December. And while some price resistance was visible in weekly shipping paces, the uptick in both old and new crop sales indicate that the U.S. is the world’s top supplier of soybeans until the South American crops are harvested. Today’s report signaled that international demand for U.S. soybeans remains alive and well for now.
Corn buying heats up
Weekly export sales for 2020/21 corn also exceeded market expectations in this morning’s report. Forecasters anticipated today’s total to range between 19.7 million – 39.4 million bushels. But USDA reported a 55% week-over-week increase in new 2020/21 corn export sales, bringing the weekly tally to 43.1 million bushels.
Export cancellations on 2020/21 corn shipments increased by nearly 3.0 million bushels to 5.1 million bushels during the December 18 – 24 reporting week, largely due to rallying corn futures prices.
But higher prices had little impact on loading paces, as weekly corn shipments soared over 60% higher than last week’s volume to 52.7 million bushels. A weakening dollar paired with increased shipments to smaller countries contributed to stronger corn exports for the reporting week, as corn export volumes to all destinations besides China rose by over 50%, or 11.2 million bushels, to 33.4 million bushels on the week.
The weekly volume was unseasonably high as weekly corn shipments typically dip in mid-December due in large part to an uptick in U.S. corn shipments to China. The world’s second largest economy increased weekly corn export volumes by nearly 8.7 million bushels to 19.4 million bushels for the week ending December 24.
Japan was the second top destination for U.S. corn last week, with 10.8 million bushels loaded out of U.S. terminals.
Wheat records another week of strong shipments
Wheat export sales for the 2020/21 crop were not as exceptional as those of corn and soybeans this week, but they were nonetheless strong in the wake of a weakened dollar and limited exportable wheat supplies in the Black Sea region.
At 19.2 million bushels, weekly 2020/21 wheat export sales ticked up by nearly a third from the previous week and landed on the higher end of analyst estimates (7.3 – 22.0 million bushels). No new crop wheat export sales were reported during the December 18 – 24 reporting week while export cancellations were held to a lone cargo.
The trend of unseasonably high wheat export loading paces continued during the week ending December 24. Wheat export volumes ticked up 19% to nearly 16.0 million bushels on the week. Marketing year to date loading paces remain over 8% higher than the five-year average.
The top destination for U.S. wheat last week was the Philippines (3.9 million bushels), followed by South Korea (3.0 million bushels) and Mexico (2.8 million bushels). Loading paces to China increased slightly, by a mere 8% to 2.5 million bushels.
Five buyers accounted for 88% of last week’s wheat shipments from U.S. export terminals. Six other countries tallied smaller purchases to make up the remaining volumes. By comparison, in the previous reporting week, 14 countries purchased wheat volumes totaling less than a million bushels from the U.S.
The reporting week’s futures price rally likely left smaller buyers more hesitant to book expensive U.S. wheat. But as global food hoarding continues and the dollar continues to fall, it is possible that the buyers will return with more enthusiasm in the weeks to come.
To read the USDA’s weekly export sales report for the week ending December 24 in its entirety, click here.