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Wheat trade seems comfortable losing acres; USDA reports rule the week

World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimate is better for corn and soybeans than wheat.

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Soybeans have posted strong gains as of late on news of South American weather concerns. Kathaleen Kuhn / Grand Vale Creative LLC
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Editor's note: Catch Randy Martinson and AgweekTV's Michelle Rook every Friday after markets close on the Agweek Market Wrap at agweek.com.

The grains wrapped up the first week of January mixed, with wheat seeing heavy losses while corn posted decent gains and soybeans posted strong gains.

Wheat pressure was tied to expectations of record crops out of Australia and Argentina. The fact that the U.S. cannot garner any wheat export business added to the pressure. But in reality, the issue in wheat right now is technical. It appears that no fundamental news is entering into the equation as wheat continues to plummet. The way Minneapolis is trading, it appears that the market is comfortable with losing 2022 acreage to other crops as at this point, Minneapolis is not trading to hold onto acreage.

Corn and soybeans are seeing support from South America weather forecasts. Forecasts are continuing to call for extremely hot temps followed by a chance for rain the following week.

The past two ethanol production estimates continue to show solid ethanol production, but a decreasing trend. On a negative side, stocks the past two weeks have shown large increases as well as declining gas demand, which is now at the low end of the five-year average. With the huge spike in omicron variant cases, traders are concerned about slowing demand.

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Technically, wheat is trading below support and is in an oversold market conditions while corn and soybeans are at the high end of their trading ranges and in an overbought condition. Look for wheat to start to stabilize, but that doesn’t mean wheat will have to do anything for the next six weeks as it waits for news on winter wheat once it emerges out of dormancy.

The second week of January had the grains trading on the defense, with last-minute profit taking and position squaring the main driving force ahead of Wednesday’s USDA data dump. South America forecasts are calling for another four days at least of intense heat for southern Brazil and Argentina. Tuesday’s temps were reported to have reached 113 degrees, which is a new record.

Wheat’s selling pressure continued Tuesday night with selling accelerating once USDA released its reports. The Quarterly Grain stocks estimate was friendly to wheat as stocks were tighter than expected. Stocks were estimated at 1.39 billion bushels, 31 million bushels lower than expected by the trade and 313 million bushels below last year’s estimate.

The World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimate was negative for wheat. USDA made no changes to the 2020 crop year estimates but did make adjustments to 2021. In the report, USDA trimmed imports 10 million bushels, feed demand was cut 25 million bushels, and exports were cut 15 million bushels. The net result was a 30 million bushel increase in ending stocks, which are now estimated at 628 million bushels, 21 million bushels above expectations. The national average price increased 10 cents to $7.15.

On the world stage, wheat numbers were negative. Stocks were estimated at 280 million metric tons, 1.7 million metric tons above expectations and 1.8 million metric tons above the previous month. Argentina’s wheat production was increased 500,000 metric tons to 20.5 million metric tons and the European Union production increased 200,000 metric tons to 138.9 million metric tons. Russia’s wheat exports were trimmed 1 million metric tons to 35 million metric tons.

The first look at the U.S. Winter Wheat Seedings report had all winter wheat acreage at 34.397 million, 142,000 acres above expectations and 749,000 acres above last year, which is slightly negative. Hard red winter wheat acreage was estimated at 23.8 million, 234,000 less than expected and 306,000 lower than last year. Soft red winter wheat acreage is estimated at 7.07 million, which was 515,000 acres above expectations and 422,000 acres above last year. White winter wheat acreage is estimated at 3.56 million, 17,000 less than expected but 54,000 acres above last year.

Corn saw a couple export sales during the second week of January, which was a good sign since corn is trading at the upper end of its recent trading range. Mexico was in and bought 132,000 metric tons of U.S. corn and an unknown destination bought 100,000 metric tons . Forecasts calling for hot dry conditions to continue for southern Brazil and Argentina the second week of January added support. But like wheat, most of the attention was focused on USDA’s reports.

USDA’s Quarterly Grain Stocks estimate was neutral for corn with stocks coming in at 11.647 billion bushels, 45 million bushels above expectations and 353 million bushels above last year.

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USDA’s Final Crop Production estimate for corn was negative. USDA made only minor adjustments to the 2020 supply and demand numbers (increased feed demand 1 million bushels and increased food demand 1 million bushels), which in turn ended up reducing ending stocks 1 million bushels to 1.235 billion bushels.

For 2021, USDA increased planted acreage 100,000 acres, increased harvest acreage 300,000 (210,000 acres more than expected) and left yield unchanged at 177 bushels. North Dakota saw the largest decrease in harvested acreage, losing 190,000 acres while South Dakota was a close second losing 170,000 acres.

This put production at 15.115 billion bushels, an increase of 53 million bushels over the previous month, 46 million bushels above expectations but 33 million bushels short of an all-time high. On the demand side, USDA increased food demand 5 million bushels, increased ethanol 75 million bushels but cut exports 75 million bushels. The net result was a 47 million bushels increase in ending stocks, now estimated at 1.54 billion bushels, 91 million bushels above expectations.

Corn’s world numbers were friendly. USDA put Brazil’s production at 115 million metric tons, 1.1 million metric tons below expectations and 3 million metric tons below last month. Argentina’s production was estimated at 54 million metric tons, 700,000 metric tons above expectations but 500,000 metric tons below last month. World corn ending stocks were estimated at 303.1 million metric tons, 200,000 metric tons lower than expected and 2.4 million metric tons lower than last month. Ukraine’s production was increased 2 million metric tons while Mexico’s was cut 400,000 metric tons.

As was the case in corn, soybeans also saw a few export sales this week, and like corn, the exports took place with soybeans trading at the upper end of their trading ranges. This week’s sales were 100,000 metric tons of soybeans to Mexico and another 132,000 metric tons of soybeans to China.

Soybeans bounced around Wednesday until the USDA report dump at 11 a.m. and then the market climbed higher on some friendly numbers, especially regarding South American production.

The Quarterly Grain Stocks report was neutral for soybeans with Dec. 1 stocks at 3.149 billion bushels, just 20 million bushels more than the trade expected but 202 million bushels higher than last Dec. 1.

For the 2021 crop, USDA increased yield by 0.2 bushels to 51.4 bushels but lowered harvested acres by 104,000 to 86.332 million for a 10 million bushel increase in production. The trade expected a small increase in acres but just a 0.1 bushel increase in yield. U.S. ending stocks were friendly as there was just a 10 million bushel increase to 350 million bushels. The increase was due to higher production, no changes were made to exports, crush, etc. The national average price was increased by 50 cents to $12.60.

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World numbers also were friendly as USDA cut Brazil’s production by 5 million metric tons (1.8 million metric more than the trade expected) to 139.0 million metric tons and Argentina’s production was cut by 3 million metric tons (1.3 million metric tons more than the trade expected) to 46.5 million metric tons. That resulted in a 6.8 million metric ton cut to world ending stocks (4.8 million metric tons more than expected) to 95.2 million metric tons.

Canola fell prey to profit-taking and USDA’s report which increased U.S. canola production. USDA’s crop production report showed the U.S. canola yield increased 16% from last month to 1,302 lbs. and harvested acres were cut by 1% from last month to 2.089 million for a production increase of 15% to 2.721 billion pounds.

U.S. sunflower yield was decreased by 1.5% from last month to 1,530 lbs. and harvested acres increased by 1.7% to 1.244 million for a production increase of 0.1% to 1.9 billion pounds.

“The risk of loss in trading futures and/or options is substantial and each investor and/or trader must consider whether this is a suitable investment. Past performance, whether actual or indicated by simulated historical tests of strategies, is not indicative of future results.”

Related Topics: MARKETSAGRICULTURECROPS
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Meteorlogist and commodity trading advisor Jim Roemer is the owner of Best Weather Inc., and co-founder of Climate Predict, a long-range global weather forecast tool.
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