Sluggish export sales pressured grain prices

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Futures drifted lower following disappointing weekly export sales. Net sales for the current marketing year were only 9.3 million bushels. Trade estimates were about 20 million bushels. After sales of 30 million bushels the previous week, expectations for exports have ramped up. The outside markets were stronger which provided underlying support for corn. More rain fell overnight in central Argentina and forecasts for the next week look too wet for corn planting to move ahead. First notice day for December corn futures is Friday. No deliveries are expected. December corn was 8 3/4 cents lower at $7.51. March was 5 1/4 cents lower at $7.58 3/4.

Soybean prices were a few cents higher and well off their strongest gains at the close on Thursday. The January contract had reached a daily high of $14.60, up over 13 cents, but selling pressure from mid morning forward trimmed the gain to 1 3/4 cents at $14.48. The new-crop November 2013 contract also registered a modest gain of 4 1/4 cents at $13.09 1/4. USDA issued its weekly export sales report and the new bean sales totaled only 11.7 million bushels, about half of expectations. Bulls were still emphasizing planting concerns in Argentina where the forecast maps project more near-term difficulties probable from too much rain.

Wheat futures gave up early morning gains and moved to the minus side in midday trade Thursday, but KCBT and MGE futures managed to shave losses by the close. Today’s weekly export sales report is another disappointing week. There is still a 220 million bu. gap between wheat sales year-to-date and where they “should” be based on the 5-year history of sales to date versus end-of-year total on May 31. It’s raising odds USDA will have to lower its U.S. export forecast again in the December WASDE update. The early week enthusiasm over rumored export business to Brazil evaporated when no such sales showed up in this morning’s report. There’s still “some” underlying bullish support due to ongoing dry weather in the U.S. central and southwestern Plains as well as concern for dryness in southeastern Europe, the lower Volga River Basin and “some” locations in France. But shortly after the close the International Grains Council came out with its first global wheat acreage forecast for 2013 and put it at 223.2 million hectares, a 15-year high. At the close, CBOT March wheat was down 5 ¾ at $8.85 ½; KCBT March was down 1 ¼ at $9.35 and MGE March was down 1 ½ at $9.51 ¼.

Cattle futures were higher mainly on optimism that the fiscal cliff can be avoided. The outside markets are providing a boost. Concern about beef demand lingers. Weekly beef export sales were disappointing at 11,800 MT, down 23% from the previous week and 22% below the four week average. February cattle closed 45 points higher at $132.10.

Lean hog futures settled mixed on Thursday after getting off to a strong start. At midday hog futures were up across the board but cash prices weakened as the day went on and futures prices generally followed suit. The February contract settled at $87.13, down 45 cents but the June contract held on and settled up 20 cents at $101.28. That is a new life-of-contract high for the June contract. The December contract is still nearly $5 above the cash index which could put pressure on nearby futures in the near term.

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