Ag markets are likely to be mixed Monday morning

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The March 28 USDA Prospective Plantings report stated 2013 corn plantings slightly below the average of pre-report guesses, so the results was somewhat supportive of new crop futures. However, that result was greatly overshadowed by the bearish stocks report. The quarterly Grain Stocks report stated March 1 U.S. corn stocks at 5.399 billion bushels, which easily topped the average forecast at 5.013 billion (range 4.885-5.248). Nearby futures plunged Friday and continued lower Sunday night (markets were closed on Good Friday). May corn had dived 35.75 cents to $6.595/bushel early Monday morning, while December was down 6.75 cents to $5.3175.

The USDA forecast 2013 U.S. soybean plantings at 77.126 million acres, which came in at the low end of pre-report surveys. As with corn, that was supportive of the deferred CBOT contracts. However, the March 1 bean stocks figure easily topped expectations, thereby sending old crop futures dramatically lower. The shockingly large grain and soy stocks data suggest 2012 crops were larger than anticipated and/or usage has not been as strong. Thus, it was no surprise to see futures remain under pressure when trading resumed Sunday night. May soybeans fell 18.0 cents to $13.8675/bushel early Monday morning, while May soyoil plummeted 0.59 cents to 49.52 cents/pound, and May meal dipped $5.0 to $399.6/ton.

The Prospective Planting results for wheat seemed moderately bearish across the board, but as in corn and soybeans, the really shocking data came from the Grain Stocks report. March 1 wheat stocks at 1.234 billion bushels significantly exceeded forecasts averaging 1.167 billion. Again, this suggests the 2012 crop was larger than previously thought and/or demand has not lived up to expectations. Futures continued lower overnight, but the golden grain seems to be holding up better than corn and soybeans. May CBOT wheat futures dropped 7.75 cents to $6.80/bushel in pre-dawn trading Monday, while May KCBT wheat sank 3.75 cents to $7.23, and May MGE futures lost 5.0 cents to $7.7525.

Cattle futures surged last Thursday in response to a strong cash increase. Not only was that seen as good news for late March, it seemed bullish for April price prospects as well, especially if grocers accelerate their beef purchases after Easter. Much depends upon wholesale price direction during the days ahead. April cattle jumped 1.55 cents to end last week at 128.90 cents/pound, while August surged 1.17 cents to 125.20. Meanwhile, April through January feeder cattle futures spiked their daily 3.0-cent limit in response to plunging grain prices. April ended the day at 143.40, while August settled at 152.25.

Hog futures rose modestly Thursday, but traders were clearly unwilling to become very aggressive in the market before the late afternoon release of the quarterly USDA Hogs & Pigs report. That seemed bearish for the spring and summer contracts on the opening later this morning (remember that markets were closed for Good Friday). April hogs rose 0.52 cents to 80.60 cents/pound at their Thursday afternoon close, while June gained 0.40 cents to 91.07.

The March 28 USDA Prospective Plantings report stated 2013 cotton plantings at 10.026 million acres, which came in slightly below the average pre-report estimate at 10.08 million. Thus, the data seemed moderately supportive for ICE futures. However, the bearish tide that swept over the other crop markets weighed upon cotton as well. Conversely, futures began this week on a strong note in apparent response to overnight news that Chinese officials had not stepped up their cotton sales from stocks, thereby contradicting bearish statements made last week. May cotton rose 0.49 cents to 88.95 cents/pound early Monday morning, while December gained 0.50 cents to 87.87.

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