Farm Futures logo

Grain markets finished narrowly mixed on Friday; fertilizer market filled with questions.

Compiled by staff

March 1, 2019

4 Min Read

Missed some market news this week? Check out what Bryce Knorr and Ben Potter have been following this week.


Soybeans are higher today, supported by news President Trump delayed increases in tariffs on China due on Friday after progress in negotiations extended over the weekend. Weather is also on the mind of traders after high winds and heavy rain and snow. Major flooding is already being seen on parts of the Ohio and lower Mississippi rivers, snarling barge transportation.

A strong week of export sales failed to give the soybean market traction Thursday but futures rebounded overnight along with buying in financial assets. February tends to be a bad month for the grain trade but funds may be ready to cover short positions ahead of an uncertain start to spring, though heavy deliveries continue to weigh on cash markets.


USDA handed out some much-needed bullish data for soybeans in its latest weekly export inspection report. But taking a longer view requires a bit more nuance.

As U.S.-China trade negotiations drag on, at least there are signs of life for soybean exports to China, according to the latest round of data from USDA, out Thursday morning.

Market recaps

Grain markets are mixed today, trying to start March on a stronger note after disappointing results in February. While weakness at the end of winter is hardly unusual, uncertainty over trade weighed on prices even more than usual last month.

Grain markets finished narrowly mixed on Friday. But the effort to start March on an upbeat note seemed like something of a victory after a serious setback in February. Futures turned around after follow-through selling finally dried up this morning.


Fertilizer Outlook - The fertilizer market is one filled with more questions than answers headed into spring. A slow fall season for applications doesn’t look much better with most of the Plains and Midwest unusually wet after a series of winter storms. All that moisture – and more snow melt to come – has traffic on the river system slowed by high water and flooding, with very high barge freight rates hampering any movement of products. Farmers’ cropping choices are also very much in doubt. While USDA held to its forecast for 92 million acres of corn this spring, current futures prices and the government’s own estimates show soybeans losing less money in 2019. So, while international nutrient markets remain weak, retail costs for many products have yet to show much if any pullback.

Basis outlook - Growers still holding old crop corn and soybeans – and there are a lot of them – face some tough choices as winter slowly comes to an end.

Corn outlook - The government shutdown that created a big data vacuum threw longstanding seasonal patterns out of whack. Whether those trends get back on track will go a long ways toward proving whether corn is profitable, both for 2018 inventory and 2019 production.

Energy/ethanol outlook - While most of the petroleum complex is trading near its highest levels in a couple of months, the part of the industry that matters most to farmers is headed in the other direction. Crude oil, diesel and gasoline all rallied this week, but ethanol lagged after production dropped to match its lowest level in more than two years.

Soybean outlook - The market is always right. Even when, as is the case in soybeans right now, it doesn’t make much sense. Fundamentals remain bearish, despite a few helpful trends. Brazil’s crop is getting smaller and is likely around 75 million bushels less than USDA currently projects. China is buying and taking delivery on U.S. soybeans again, as negotiators try to hammer out a trade deal that’s about much more than agriculture.

Wheat outlook - The wheat market had a bright, shining moment last summer, when threats to crops across Europe and into the Black Sea and Australia raised hopes the time was right for the U.S. to begin selling lots of wheat to a hungry world. But yields overseas outside of northern Europe and Australia turned out better than expected, and those sales by and large were slow to materialize. Business finally picked up as the calendar flipped to 2019, but it may be too little, too late for a wheat market on the verge of life support.

Subscribe to receive top agriculture news
Be informed daily with these free e-newsletters

You May Also Like