Phyllis Nystrom

The following marketing analysis is for the week ending Sept. 3.

CORN — An exciting start to the week as we closed out August; and December corn soared to take out the July double top at $3.63 and surpassed the 200-day moving average for the first time since October. December ran to a high of $3.64.25 — its highest since March. Disappointing weekend rain inspired the jump which was then aided by a 23.5 million bushel corn sale to China. However, the surge didn’t last, and we closed near the day’s low.

Sept. 1 brought an identical sale to China, but even that wasn’t enough to bring buyers into the market. Through Sept. 3, China has purchased approximately 343.7 million bushels for the 2020-21 crop year and is likely higher depending on how many sales to unknown will eventually end up being to China.

Is China facing a corn shortage? A Reuters survey of analysts feels China could experience a corn deficit in the coming year of up to 30 million metric tons (1.18 billion bushels). China’s low-tariff quota for corn is 7.2 mmt (283.5 million bushels) but is expected to be exceeded for the first time. There are estimates China could import up to 15 mmt of U.S. corn (590 million) with 9 to 10 mmt already on the books to either China or unknown destinations.

Food inflation is the highest in the 10 years and state reserve stocks are believed to be minimal as corn prices in China’s breadbasket hit five-year highs in late August. China’s agriculture minister projects 2020-21 corn production of 266.5 mmt with ending stocks at a negative 16.7 mmt. Other grains could fill part of any feed shortfall, including barley, sorghum or feed wheat. China is urging citizens to limit food waste.

For only the second time ever, China’s weekly 4 mmt offered at auction was not fully subscribed. Only one-third of the amount was sold, but this may be because no cheaper 2015 corn was included. Higher priced 2016-2018 corn was in the auction. China has sold 56.8 mmt of reserve corn this year compared to 21.1 mmt last year by this time.

Weather talk has already begun to turn toward frost prospects. Current forecasts for Sept. 8-12 suggest the potential for a hard frost in parts of Minnesota, North Dakota and western Nebraska (subject to change). Along with the cold front will come higher chances for rain, that may delay harvest starts in Nebraska. At this point, additional rainfall will be of small use to maturing crops.

Brazil did not renew their zero-tariff quota for ethanol imports. The 198 million gallon zero-tariff quota was used nearly exclusively for U.S. ethanol imports. They are considering re-implementing the zero-tariff quota for three months, but all U.S. ethanol imports are currently subject to a 20 percent tariff. Brazil reportedly is wanting to renegotiate trade terms with the United States on imports of Brazilian sugar. 

Ukraine’s corn crop estimates are shrinking with APK-Informa cutting their corn production estimate from 38.2 mmt to 35.2 mmt. Their export sales estimates were lowered 3 percent from last year to 28.5 mmt. The Ukrainian economic ministry early in the week had lowered their Ukrainian corn export forecast 4 mmt to 29 mmt. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s latest forecast is 39.5 mmt with exports at 33.5 mmt.

A few private crop estimates for next week’s World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates report are surfacing. Early yield numbers range from 174.8 bushels per acre to 179.6 bu./acre. Crop size ranges from 14.68 billion to 15.085 billion bushels compared to USDA’s August 181.8 bu./acre yield and production at 15.278 billion bushels.

Weekly export sales were 3.8 million for old crop and 94.1 million bushels for new crop (45.47 million to China). Both numbers were at the high end of expectations. Total commitments for old crop are 1.755 billion bushels vs. WASDE’s 1.795 billion forecast. New crop commitments are 621 million bushels vs. WASDE outlook for 2.225 billion bushels and last year at this time at 234.5 million bushels. We have a record book on for new crop for this week of the year.

Weekly ethanol production fell 9,000 barrels per day to 922,000 bpd. Ethanol stocks increased 473,000 barrels to 20.9 million barrels. Net margins declined 2 cents to 13 cents/gallon. Weekly gasoline demand at 8.8 million bpd is down nearly 9 percent from last year.

Corn conditions as of Aug. 30 fell 2 percent to 62 percent good/excellent vs. calls for a 2-3 percent decline. The crop was 63 percent dented vs. 56 percent average; 12 percent was mature vs. 10 percent average.

Outlook: Funds have dramatically cut their short position in corn and it would go against history for them to build a long as we head into harvest. As of Aug. 25, funds held their smallest net short position since January.

The demand side and uncertainty lingering over what the U.S. crop size will be has provided good support to the market. Have we factored in the bullish news for now? Basis levels have firmed to encourage bushels into the market before new crop supplies are available, leading some to question where the 2019-20 2.2-billion-bushel carryout is and what it will take to move it.

December has a gap below the market at $3.45.5 to $3.48 that may act as short-term support with resistance at this week’s $3.64.25 high as short-term resistance. This range may bracket prices before the Sept. 11 WASDE report. The USDA is resurveying Iowa farmers for harvested acres and will reflect any change in the September WASDE report.

For the month of August, December corn rallied 30.75 cents. For the week ended Sept. 3, December corn was down 5.5 cents at $3.53.75 and the December 2021 contract was just a quarter-cent lower at $3.82 per bushel.

SOYBEANS — Soybeans followed a similar path as corn to start the week, trading to prices not seen since January! China reappeared in the soybean market with an early week announcement of 4.85 million bushels, with another 4.85 million to China and 11.7 million bushels to unknown destinations later in the week. The high for the recent rally in November beans as of Sept. 3 was $9.68.25 per bushel. There were spots around the Midwest that paid $9.00 per bushel for new crop delivery, allowing for growers to add to sales.

Weekly soybean conditions didn’t decline quite as much as anticipated — down 3 percent at 66 percent good/excellent as of Aug. 30 vs. expectations for a 3-4 percent decrease. There was 8 percent dropping leaves, spot-on the average.

Private crop estimates have begun to show up with early ranges from 51 bu./acre to 53 bu.’acre compared to the August USDA figure of 53.3 bu./acre. Crop sizes are ranging from 4.23 to 4.39 billion bushels vs. USDA’s August outlook for 4.425 billion bushels.

Weekly export sales were 3.2 million bushels for old crop, bringing total commitments to 1.745 billion bushels. The USDA’s target was 1.65 billion bushels. New crop sales were 64.8 million bushels (36.7 million bushels to China), bringing total commitments to 888.7 million bushels. This is a record for new crop sales at this time of year. The USDA’s current projection is 2.125 billion bushels. We are well ahead of last year’s new crop sales of 235.3 million bushels. In their daily announcements, the USDA reported 4.85 million bushels of soybeans were sold to China, and 11.68 million bushels sold to unknown destinations in the first four days of the week ending Aug. 3. Prices had rallied on pre-announcement rumors and were factored into prices before the announcements.

The July National Agriculture Statistics Service Oilseed Crush report showed 184.5 million bushels were crushed compared to 183 million estimated. This was a new monthly record. Soyoil stocks were 2.124 billion pounds vs. 2.131 billion pounds expected.

Outlook: As of Aug. 25, funds held their largest net long in soybeans since May 2018. Will they continue to add as harvest approaches? The market has provided the opportunity for growers to make catch-up sales on both old and new crop.

Great demand from China and funds adding to their net length has prompted the upswing. Whether this can last into harvest, which is just around the corner, is questionable. However, it does look like China will be around the U.S. market until South American supplies once again become available.

U.S. harvest weather, early yield reports, and South American planting weather will be the next market movers. The bulls need to be fed every day. If new export sales announcements dry up, so could the buying.

For the month of August, November soybeans soared 61 cents. For the week ended Sept. 3, November soybeans rallied 15.5 cents to $9.66 and the November 2021 contract was 11.25 cents higher at $9.49 per bushel.

Nystrom’s Notes: Contract changes for the week as of the close on Sept. 3: Chicago December wheat was up 4.5 cents at $5.53.25, Kansas City up 3.5 cents at $4.75.75, and Minneapolis wheat 8 cents higher at $5.47.25 per bushel.

Phyllis Nystrom is a market analyst with CH S Hedging in St. Paul.