PRINTABLE VERSION   EMAIL TO A FRIEND   RSS FEEDS 09:30 GMT, Wednesday, 20th Sept 2017, by Mike Verdin
AM markets: wheat prices gain, amid hopes lows have been set

For wheat futures, there is significant talk that price lows for now have been made – even if expectations of price rises ahead appear muted.

Tobin Gorey at Commonwealth Bank of Australia, for example, highlighted that in the last session "both Chicago and Kansas City [winter wheat futures] saw steepish falls during the day but sizeable buying emerged to turn the market around. 

"The market's continued resilience is bolstering the impression that seasonal price lows are in the rear view mirror. "

Benson Quinn Commodities said that that late market revival suggested a "lack of confidence in pressing trade much lower at current levels.

"Look for sideways trade to continue in the wheat complex."

'Excellent yields'

In fact, the Chicago December soft red winter wheat contract added 0.3% to $4.44 ¼ a bushel as of 09:25 UK time (03:25 Chicago time), with Kansas City hard red winter wheat futures for December up 0.4% at $4.43 ¾ a bushel, trying to regain a premium over its lower-protein peer.

There is talk of yet further upgrades to Russia's harvest, with Agritel flagging official data showing that the country's farmers had, as of Monday, harvested 82% of their wheat crop at a yield of 3.44 tonnes per hectare, compared with 2.9 tonnes a year before.

"Central region, the Volga and the Urals, are registering excellent yields respectively higher of +27% compared to 2016, + 27 % and + 12 %," Agritel said.

"Therefore, the Russian harvest is already reaching 78.2m tonnes, and the production forecast by the US Department of Agriculture at 81m tonnes seems underestimated."

Still, with Russia's exports logistics still in question, how much of this will hit the world market…

'Minneapolis vulnerable'

Where the talk of price resilience breaks down is over Minneapolis-traded spring wheat, which is feeling pressure in part from ideas of a better-than-expected Canadian harvest.

(Indeed, Canadian officials on Tuesday estimated the country's spring wheat harvest at 20.08m tonnes, based on the likes of weather and satellite data, compared with the 18.89m-tonne harvest suggested by a farm survey made in July, results of which were released three weeks ago.)

Furthermore, the talk just will not go away over a gap left in the chart of the Minneapolis December contract three months ago, when futures were leaping higher daily on US dryness worries.

"Minneapolis still looks vulnerable till market can fill lower side of the gap at $6.07 a bushel," said Benson Quinn Commodities.

The Minneapolis December lot edged 0.25 cents nearer by easing to $6.17 a bushel, also getting nearer its 200-day moving average, at a little below $6.12 a bushels, which prices have not touched in four months.

'Harvesting pressure'

There is less confidence that fellow grain corn has set a price low, with its late August tumble.

Terry Reilly at Futures International said that "US harvesting pressure is around the corner", with the idea that the spike in supplies as harvest progress weighs on prices, as does the allowance of the removal of the last bits of risk premium.

Benson Quinn Commodities, flagging a "seasonal tendency of the [corn] market to make its seasonal lows at end September to very early October", added that a "record large carry-in, undersold producer and new supplies with harvest just around the corner all offer resistance" to higher prices.

CBA's Tobin Gorey said that while a drop in prices in the last session was not large, it was "enough to mean the potential season low at the start of this month is in question.

"Buyers might perhaps emerge at those lower levels again."

There were in fact a few around in early deals, to allow a rise in December corn futures – but not by much, all of 0.1% to $3.48 ½ a bushel.

South America watch

Soybean futures, meanwhile, which are also facing harvest pressure on prices, but seeing support too from ideas of strong demand, added 0.3% to $9.78 ½ a bushel for November.

Benson Quinn Commodities said that the "largest carry-in stocks in 10 years and forecast for record production offer resistance" to price gains, while a "delayed start to Brazilian planting due to dry conditions, and record large world demand forecast for 2017-18 offer underlying support".

CHS Hedging added that "the trade continues to watch for planting disruptions in South America", although noting that the weather had turned more favourable, ie wet, for central Brazil late next week.

Direction later may depend on whether the US Department of Agriculture, through its daily alerts system, unveils a fresh export purchase of US soybeans, with an absence on Tuesday denting confidence somewhat.

On call support

In New York, cotton posted better gains, of 0.6% to 69.67 cents a pound for the December contract, despite decreasing chances that Hurricane Maria will make landfall in the US, with it looking more and more likely to head off eastwards into the Atlantic.

Mr Gorey said that "the market is clustering around the idea that the US crop, and USDA's estimates of it, will be closer to 20m bales", than the 21.8m bales currently expected.

Ecom restated the imbalance in so-called "on call" data between the larger number of mills, ie buyers, needing to fix cotton prices against futures than producers.

"I suspect that the mills needing to fix their on call sales contracts will be provide some support to the December cover month as the contract moves closer to expiry," the trading house said.

It also cautioned over the threat of a rapid reversal, if prices do fall, as hedge funds liquidate their large net long in futures and options.

"If the market starts to fall away then we may see some long liquidation which would just see the situation get worse for the specs."

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