Export news weighs on corn, soybean markets

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The corn market had dipped in Wednesday night trading prior to the release of the weekly Export Sales report from the USDA. The official figure came in at 247,000 tonnes, which virtually matched the upper end of the forecast range between 150,000 and 250,000 tonnes. The CBOT market initially reacted well to the news, despite the fact that it continued the 2012-13 pattern of falling far short of comparable rates from the past. Ideas along the latter line of thought may have caused the subsequent reversal. Futures were trading at late-morning levels very similar to those reached overnight. March corn was down 1 1/2 cents to $7.29 3/4 just before lunch, while December had fallen 4 1/4 cents to $5.88/bushel.

Soybean sales proved very strong last week, as exemplified by the fact that the result of the latest USDA report, at 1.28 million tonnes easily topped predictions in the 750,000-950,000 tonne range. In addition, the USDA announced soon thereafter that private sellers had sold 240,000 tonnes for 2013-14 delivery to unknown destinations over the past few days. The fact that the beans wouldn’t be shipped until next fall at the earliest probably robbed the announcement of market-moving power. Nevertheless, having bullish traders prove unable to sustain the immediate bullish reaction to the export news seems rather discouraging. March beans had slipped 1/2 cent to $14.36/bushel in late morning trade, while March soyoil declined 0.08 cents to 51.23 cents/pound and March meal had fallen $1.8 to $417.3/ton.

Bullish wheat traders were probably disappointed by the Thursday morning USDA export data, since the latest result, at 284,900 tonnes fell well short of the forecast range (between 459,000 and 650,000 tonnes). Actually, the industry may have been pleasantly surprised by the spring wheat sales total, since the Minneapolis market held up better than its Chicago and Kansas City counterparts during late-morning trading. Renewed talk of drought over the Southern Plains may also have offered support, but it did not prevent a general move downward. March CBOT wheat had fallen 6 cents to $7.79 around mid-session, while March KCBT wheat tumbled 9 1/4 cents to $8.33 1/4 and March MGE futures dipped 3 1/2 cents to $8.68.

The cattle market almost surely disappointed bullish interests early this week, with the drop in cash prices and the February futures drop below the pivotal 130-cent levels being especially discouraging. Still, Chicago prices seemed set to stabilize Thursday morning, possibly due to trader ideas that the breakdown had largely run its course. Unfortunately for those bulls, falling beef prices may exacerbate the situation, since weak consumer demand and struggling wholesale markets have been a major obstacle to sustained bullish moves in recent months. Prices then reacted badly in response to news that Cargill plans to close a beef processing plant due to poor margins. February cattle had fallen 1.47 cents to 127.05 cents/pound soon thereafter and April was down 1.67 cents to 130.72.

Hog futures offered a significant contrast to the weakness in the cattle pit Thursday morning. And while the cash hog and wholesale pork markets have not advanced all that substantially lately, they have certainly proven firmer than their cattle/beef counterparts. Preliminary reports indicated considerable strength at the direct markets west of the Mississippi River this morning, while the mid-morning USDA report implied wholesale prices had firmed up. Whether the market can sustain its strength in the face of dropping cattle prices is very much open to question. February hogs had risen 0.40 cents to 85.55 cents/pound by late morning, whereas June futures had dipped 0.10 cents to 96.55.

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