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Erin Brown / Grand Vale Creative

April weather to control narrative

Wheat

The U.S. dollar made an attempt at the old high of 97.16 on the June contract, reaching 97.095 before backing off to 96.525. There is some heavy resistance at the 97.16 to 97.665 (March contract high) levels. There has been strength lately with the Brexit vote and foreign investors fleeing the Euro buying the U.S. dollar. Since March 20, the dollar has gained $1.70 and the euro has lost €2.61 reaching new contract lows.

Wheat ratings showed a +3% improvement in Kansas to 55% good to excellent. Texas also improved 2% to 41% good to excellent. Oklahoma declined 5% to 69% good to excellent. Colorado declined 2% to 66% good to excellent but is rated 21% higher than the five-year average of 45% good to excellent.

As a sum of the whole, good to excellent ratings are 24% higher than this same time last year. However, in breaking it down, hard red ratings are running above the five-year averages while soft red ratings are running below the five-year averages. Michigan and Ohio show 26% to 30% of the crop rated poor to very poor.

Weekly export sales were above expectations at 704,700 metric tons (25.9 million bushels) for 2018-19 and 11.5 million bushels for 2019-20. Commitments total 894 million bushels for 2018-19 and are up 6% from a year ago. Weekly export inspections were 418,000 metric tons (15.8 million bushels) which was right in the middle of expectations. Inspections for 2018-19 total 691.3 million bushels, down 6% from a year ago.

It appears that spread trading may be one of the culprits for Minneapolis weakness. On March 26, when Minneapolis was trading $5.73 resistance, it had a +$1.05 spread over Chicago. That spread was 95 cents at the beginning of the week and has narrowed to 56 cents. Traders are simply buying the Chicago and selling the Minneapolis betting that the historical spread of 40 to 60 cents will come to fruition.

The other spread that a number of traders do is the Kansas City to Chicago. Typically, Kansas City trades at a positive premium to Chicago. That spread has been negative Kansas City for much of the winter and has widened to 34 cents in favor of Chicago. The condition ratings would favor this spread getting even wider as the soft red belt ratings are much worse than the hard red belt. So as the Kansas City to Chicago spread has been unusual, the Minneapolis to Chicago spread came more in line with historical averages this week.

Overall, weather is expected to be cooler to much cooler than normal in the eight to 14 day forecasts for all major wheat producing areas. Forecasts favor wetter conditions in both the hard red and soft red belts with drier conditions favored in the northern spring wheat belt. We always seem to get that one day in the spring where we have concerns of colder temperatures damaging winter wheat coming out of dormancy. It appears likely that we will get one of those days within the next month.

For the week ending April 4, May contracts for Minneapolis wheat were down 27.5 cents at $5.2725, up 13 cents at $4.7075 for Chicago wheat, and up 9.5 cents at $4.395 for Kansas City wheat.

Corn

The corn market saw a small recovery this week as the bulls try to recoup some of the 17-cent losses they incurred after the March 29 U.S. Department of Agriculture report. The USDA report threw the trade a curveball, estimating that U.S. farmers will plant 92.8 million acres for 2019, 3.7 million more acres than last year and the largest number of acres since 2016. Also coming as a surprise was 300 million more bushels in quarterly stocks compared to pre-report estimates. The USDA seems to be underestimating U.S. feed use as both hogs and cattle inventories are near record highs. On the bearish side, the USDA is expecting competition from an expected large South American corn harvest to hamper U.S. exports going forward after a strong start to the export season.

April weather will be the price movement leader going forward as farmers start preparing for planting season. Actual planted acres will determine if the USDA's summer prediction for the 2018-19 ending stocks will come in closer to 2 billion bushels than 1.5 billion bushels. A 1 million acre difference with a 170 bushel per acre average would be 170 million bushels. That would be a big difference in what kind of price ceiling we would be looking at if we get a summer weather scare later this summer.

The trade is also searching for any hints that China will start buying U.S. corn if a trade deal is reached. It is getting hard to justify why the funds are continuing to hold their heavy net short positions with a possible trade deal looming and with farmers heading into planting season in what has so far been a cool spring.

Ethanol production for the week ending March 29 averaged 999,000 barrels per day. This is up 2.46% versus last week and down 3.76% versus last year. Ethanol stocks as of March 29 were at 23.99 million barrels, down 1.87% versus last week and up 7% versus last year. Corn used in last week's ethanol production is estimated at 103.02 million bushels. This crop year's cumulative corn used for ethanol production for this crop year is 3.18 billion bushels. Corn use needs to average 107.06 million bushels per week to meet USDA's estimate of 5.55 billion bushels.

For the week ending March 28, USDA reported 21.2 million bushels of corn export sales for 2018-19 and 3.7 million bushels for 2019-20. Total commitments of 1.701 billion bushels in 2018-19 are down 9% from a year ago. Inspections for 2018-19 total 1.168 billion bushels, up 21% from the previous year and well above USDA's estimate for a 3% decrease.

May corn futures made new contract lows on Friday but are now 6 cents above those lows. The old contract low of $3.61 is now support with the recent run up to $3.8075 on March 22 as major resistance. For the week ending April 4, May corn was up 8.75 cents.

Soybeans

Soybean futures saw a delayed reaction to the bullish March 29 USDA acreage report that is estimating lower than expected acres for this upcoming crop year. The USDA is expecting soybean planted acres at 84.6 million acres, on the low end of private estimates and surprisingly lower than the February Outlook number.

There were a wide range of estimates for 2019 U.S. planted acres. Private estimates were from 84.3 million to 87.7 million acres range, so the trade really didn't have a good idea of where the USDA was leaning. Expected 2019 U.S. soybean planted acres are 5% less than the 89.2 million acres planted last year. U.S. soybean stocks are still record large and the trade seems to be getting impatient waiting for a trade deal agreement.

May soybeans bounced off its five-month lows and is looking for direction as it continues to mull around the $9 mark. U.S. and Chinese negotiators are reportedly working on trying to find an agreement on implementation and enforcement to settle this trade war. Negotiators from the two sides were meeting in Washington, D.C., on April 3-5 with hopes to get enough accomplished so President Donald Trump and President Xi Jinping can plan a summit for later this month.

No matter what happens, monster U.S. soybean stock supplies are not just going to disappear with the snap of a finger. It could take three to six months to get the logistics figured out and pipelines up to full capacity if a trade deal is reached and China gets aggressive importing our soybeans. On the other side, the lowest expected planted acres since 2016 was positive news for prices.

According to a statement from the PRC Ag Attache, China is expecting demand for oilseeds and oilseed products to climb for the 2019-20 marketing year, even as feed use for hogs will continue slow because of African swine fever. The projected demand recovery is attributed to increased meal demand as chicken, cattle and aquaculture production is forecast to grow to meet rising consumer demand for alternative animal proteins. Chinese soybean imports are forecast to reach 91.5 million metric tons for 2019-20, up from an estimated 88 million metric tons in 2018-19 but lower than 2017-18 imports of 94.1 million metric tons.

For the week ending March 28, the USDA reported 72.4 million bushels of soybean export sales for 2018-19 and 800,000 bushels for 2019-20. Total commitments of 1.603 billion bushels in 2018-19 are down 15% from a year ago. Inspections for 2018-19 total 1.076 billion bushels, down 29% from a year ago and below USDA's estimate for a 12% reduction

November soybean new support is the March 29 low of $9.18, which was the lowest close since Nov. 26, and then the psychological $9 mark is support after that. The contract low of $8.6475 set in mid-July is now major support. Resistance is the nine-month high of $9.71 that was set on Dec. 12. November soybeans were up 20.5 cents for the week ending April 4.

Canola

For the week ending April 4, May canola futures were up $1.80 at $457.10 Canadian per metric ton. The April Canadian dollar was up 0.0004 at 0.7495. This brings the U.S. price to $15.54 per hundredweight.

• Velva, N.D., $15.68 per hundredweight, May at $15.68.

• Enderlin, N.D., $16.37 per hundredweight, May at $16.37.

• Hallock, Minn., $15.73 per hundredweight, May at $15.73.

• Fargo, N.D., $16.20 per hundredweight, May at $16.25.

China filed a quality complaint against a third Canadian exporter of canola, according to the Canadian Ag Minister.

Barley

Cash feed barley bids in Minneapolis were at $3, while malting barley received no quote. Berthold, N.D., bid is $2.50 and CHS Southwest New Salem, N.D., bid $2.55.

Durum

Cash bids for milling quality durum are $4.50 in Berthold and at $4.40 in Dickinson, N.D.

Sunflower

Cash sunflower bids in Fargo were at $17.55. May bids were at $17.60.

For the week ending April 4, soybean oil was up 82 cents at $29.20 on the May contract.