As promised - though admittedly quite late - here are some observations on today's (Friday) USDA grain reports, which resulted in some very big moves across the complex.
Let's start with the corn first -
The trade was expecting a reduction in the ACREAGE PLANTED and that is what it received. Specifically, the number was lowered to 90.9 million acres from last month's 91.6 million. Harvested acreage was also reduced slightly to 83.1 million from last month's 83.8 million.
What the trade seemed focused on however was the increase in yield from 171.7 bushels to 174.2. They also boosted beginning stocks to 1.236 billion bushels from last month's 1.181 billion. Total production for this year came in at 14.475 billion bushels up from the September estimate at 14.395 billion.
USDA found another 50 million bushels for feed usage from the September estimate mainly because the WASDE report showed an increase in beef, pork, and poultry production next year from the previous month. Those critters need to be fed.
By the time they did the numbers, they gave us a carryover of 2.081 billion bushels compared to what they estimated last month would be a 2.002 billion bushel carryover.
To provide a bit of perspective, the 2013-2014 marketing year carryover ended at 1.236 billion. We are essentially going to end up with nearly 70% more corn left over next year.
It is interesting to see how the trade responded to the number when it first hit. Expectations were that USDA would kick the yield number higher than they did and some came in to buy on that, but most of us who have followed these reports for many years know that USDA tends to be very conservative preferring to err on the low side and then come in the following month with an upward revision during big crop years.
With private analytical firms generally reaching a yield consensus higher than today's number, traders used the short rally to sell as expectations are that USDA will give us that higher number next month. Besides, with a carryover of this size and with a record, bin-busting crop, buying a market to take it higher on data like this was rather ill-advised to say the least.
One thing I also noticed was the extent to which those corn/wheat spreads were battered today. Yesterday, the wheat market sharp drop lower on rotten export numbers fueled some big selling in wheat. Harvest delays in corn were used to bull up the market ( strangely I might add ahead of a major USDA report ). The spread shot up in favor of corn by some 16 cents or so. Today, with the lowered than expected wheat number, that entire gain was wiped out in a single day with the spread dropping 16 cents. Talk about whipsawing! And to think that spread trading is supposed to be less risky and less volatile. HA! You have got to be kidding me. When one leg of a spread goes one way and other goes the other way, and both of them are going the wrong way as far as someone in the spread is concerned, you end up LOSING EVEN MORE MONEY than a plain old outright position would have cost you. That HURTS, BIG TIME!
What I am going to be very interested in seeing now is how this spread performs as we move forward. The reason is simple - the large specs have been and remain net longs in the corn market even though the primary trend has been down for many weeks. They have been able to do this because they have been in those spreads mentioned and short wheat while maintaining a long corn leg.
My concern has been what happens if those big specs decide to unwind those spreads or even reverse them? Corn could get clobbered as they exit the long side of that trade.
I am saying that this is going to happen and I certainly cannot advise anyone who does not know what they are doing in the grains to become a spread trader ( remember if you are a novice you could end up losing money on both sides and get hurt even more badly than an outright futures position ) but I will say that the potential exists for wheat to gain on corn.
Then again, from what I can see, there is not exactly a shortage of wheat out there either. Exports completely shut off last week when wheat was above $5.00 and here we see the trade push the price right back up over $5.00 today on the USDA numbers although it did settle below that level by the time the closing bell rang.
With the Dollar bouncing back off of support near 85, US origin commodities become less competitive on the global market meaning a rally in wheat, along with a rallying Dollar is not going to make it any cheaper for our export customers and they have LOTS of options to choose from out there as the US is not the only wheat game in town.
Briefly on the beans ( it has been a very long day ) - USDA cut the planted acreage to 84.2 million from last month's 84.8. They also dropped harvested acreage to 83.4 million from 84.1. Apparently there were some additional acres that were washed out earlier this year and not planted plus some that were planted and then washed out and not replanted.
They did however raise the yield to 47.1 bushels from 46.6. I and others believe that they are too low on this number and that it will be revised higher next month and in December as well.
They did cut the old carryover number even further to 92 million bushels from last month's 130 million reflecting the rather strong demand from end users as they waited for new crop supplies to hit the pipeline.
Total production for this year was bumped up to 3.927 billion bushels from last month's 3.913. The resultant carryover for the new crop came in at 450 million bushels, down from last month's estimate of 475 million but obviously nearly 5X the amount of the 2103-2014 crop year.
Traders looking at the numbers were inclined to view that reduction in the carryover as a reason to buy and that is what happened initially. My view is that there were some big guns itching to flush the small spec stops on the upside. However, they could not reach them as these mysterious buyers had already run prices up on Monday this week and proceeded to gun them even higher ahead of the report day. Simply put, there was no reason to chase beans at those levels because in spite of the slight reduction in carryover, we are still looking at a record crop.
Traders also felt that USDA yield numbers were too conservative ( so do I based on what I am seeing from the private firms ) and used the rally, just like they did with corn, to sell.
The result is that both corn and beans go into Sunday night with some potential to see additional selling take hold, especially if the weather window next week for harvesting looks favorable.
I will try to get some charts up tomorrow.
I should also note that the Goldman Sachs Commodity Index closed at a 49 month low today!
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