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Corn set for a bearish slide?

USDA’s Aug. 12 corn crop production estimate is likely too low and forecasts for corn use and exports too high, which will add even more bearishness to corn once the information is digested by the market, according to Richard Feltes, an analyst with MF Global, speaking at a CME Group press briefing.

USDA estimated crop production for corn at 12.8 billion bushels, while corn yields were forecast at 159.5 bushels per acre. For soybeans, USDA projected production at a record 3.2 billion bushels, and soybean yields were forecast at 41.7 bushels. Ending stocks for new crop corn were estimated at 1.6 billion bushels, and for soybeans, at 210 million bushels.

In the corn estimate, Feltes noted that USDA “largely looked at stalk counts, they’re not even looking at ears. This is going to be very suggestive to the trade that the corn production number is going to continue to advance in subsequent reports, which it has done in 12 of the last 19 years.”

Feltes is “suspicious” about USDA raising corn usage by 350 million bushels over last month. “We’ll give them the edge on the ethanol, but there is no evidence that feed usage is going to go up next year, with what we’re hearing from the livestock sector.”

USDA also raised corn exports “and there is some evidence for that, but a jump of this magnitude (150 million bushels higher than last month) is not borne out by the international changes in production. I think the market is going to be skeptical about the corn numbers. Hence, corn which is already near its lows, could easily put in new lows. Unless we put in some sort of frost threat to prematurely end the growing season, the path for the corn market is clear.

Dan Manternach, with Doane Advisory Services, was surprised by USDA’s increase in corn usage “which put the carryout at below the average trade expectation. That will be a bit of a pleasant surprise.” But skepticism about the numbers would likely offset longer-term optimism, he added.

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