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Image of grain bins with words Grain market week in review with Bryce Knorr and Ben Potter in white. Entire image has red tint.

Corn prices slip lower, soybeans eke out small gains

Grain market week in review: Audio, crop progress, exports and outlooks

Missed some grain market news this week? Check out what Bryce Knorr and Ben Potter wrote this week.

Audio

Grain markets tried to keep the rally going overnight but faded gains after reports surfaced about the trade deal with China announced Friday. News China wants more negotiations before signing the pact tossed cold water on hopes for big purchases of U.S. farm products. USDA offices are closed for Columbus Day as traders search for clues about damage from last week’s early blast of winter.

Questions about last week’s trade deal started to emerge as soon as negotiations concluded on Friday, and those concerns increased this morning on news China wants U.S. tariffs rolled back to follow through with large purchases of farm products. Futures retreated overnight as questions mounted, but sellers are cautious. Damage to crops from last week’s winter blast could start to emerge in this afternoon’s condition reports from USDA.

Crop ratings that were mixed on the heels of last week’s cold snap and blizzard weren’t enough to firm up the market overnight, sending futures mostly a little lower. Worries emerged again in financial markets as Brexit negotiations between the EU and Britain appeared to bog down, with rhetoric between China and the U.S. also sounding a bit more contentious.

What does Brexit have to do with the grain market? Nothing directly, but the messy divorce between the European Union and Britain dragged on for more than three years, creating uncertainty that markets hate. News of another deal between the two sides overnight cheer investors and traders, helping everything from stocks to soybeans.

Export data for soybeans out this morning is expected to show a good total for last week thanks to some buying by China, while traders wait for news of more purchases as negotiators hammer out terms on the deal reached last week. News for corn and wheat may continue to be lackluster, one reason prices for those crops drifted lower overnight.

Market recaps

Grain futures are mixed this morning as a relatively quiet overnight session heads towards the morning break. A dry weekend could accelerate harvest activity as traders wait for news about exports and yields.

Corn prices slipped lower today, pressured by another poor export sales report and increasing harvest activity after a dry week. Soybeans eked out small gains today after holding another test of the support line from their three-week channel. Wheat prices closed mixed today in trading that continues to reflect what’s happening on price charts just as much as wheat fields around the world. A move by the dollar to 11-week lows didn’t hurt either in the currency sensitive market.

Crop progress

After a growing season that started with floods and included drought in some areas and an October blizzard, yields reported to Feedback from the Field by producers last week weren’t all that different than USDA published in its recent production report. Growers put corn yields at 167 bushels per acre, 1.4 bpa below the government’s assessment. Farmers said soybeans averaged 48 bpa, 1.1 bushels per acre above USDA.

Analysts expected USDA to dock corn and soybean quality ratings by a point each in the agency’s latest crop progress report, out Tuesday afternoon. USDA matched that trend for corn but bucked expectations for soybeans. For the week ending October 13, USDA moved corn quality from 56% rated in good-to-excellent condition a week ago down to 55%. Soybean harvest is actually a little further along right now, with 26% complete – up from last week’s mark of 14% but still moderately behind 2018’s pace of 37% and the five-year average of 49%. Analysts were expecting harvest progress to reach 25%.

Exports

USDA’s latest export inspection data, out a day later than normal due to Monday’s Columbus Day holiday, continued to show decent corn and wheat totals. Corn’s struggles continue.

Export sales data released today by USDA doesn’t include purchases made after U.S. and Chinese negotiators reached a tentative deal a week ago on their long-standing trade war. But Chinese buyers were already purchasing U.S. soybeans, helping boost total business completed. Net new booking of soybeans came in at 58.8 million bushels, including 31.3 million done by Chinese buyers. The total was down from the huge numbers the previous week, but better than trade expectations and appeared to include around 10 million bushels to China not previously reported by USDA under its daily wire for announcing large purchases.

Outlooks

Basis outlook - Basis for corn, soybeans and wheat spiked higher across the northern Plains despite higher rail freight costs thanks to bids off the Pacific Northwest that kept pace. With crops still standing in the field in North Dakota and snows extending north on to the Canadian Prairies, supplies of high protein wheat are suddenly in very short supply in a year when the content of hard red winter wheat further south was lower than normal.

Soybean outlook - Over the years I haven’t had a lot of rules of thumb about marketing. But one I try to stick to is not recommended early sales in soybeans. This volatile market generally seems to offer a chance of making money at some point. Obviously, the past year or more has been unusual but I followed my guideline, avoiding giving advice to make panic sales.

Corn outlook - If you caught my presentations on the farm show circuit this year, you heard me pound home the point that I also wrote about over the summer in Farm Futures: Markets in years with late planting may need time to rally, waiting until the size of damage becomes clear with results off the combine.

Fertilizer outlook - Growers hoping to get caught up on fertilizer applications after being stiffed by weather for 2019 crops may have to go back to the Cubs’ old moto: wait until next year. Another famous quote from baseball also looks in play: It’s déjà vu all over again. The implications could have a big impact on your purchasing decisions this fall.

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