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US soybean export sales fall short, but cotton stars again

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US export sales data did not make happy reading for soybean bulls returning from the Thanksgiving holiday.


At 869,100 tonnes for the current, 2017-18 season, volumes last week were down 21% week on week to their lowest of the marketing year, which started in September.


They also fell well short of market expectations of 1.00m-1.40m tonnes.


Total US soybean export commitments (ie orders and completed shipments combined) now total 33.45m tonnes for this season, down 17.1% (or 6.92m tonnes) year on year.


Spring wheat rethink


For wheat, the export sales data were soft too, at 199,800 tonnes for this season, a six-week low and well below expectations of a figure between 350,000-550,000 tonnes.


White wheat export sales held up pretty well, at 83,774 tonnes, down some 11,000 tonnes week on week, but hard red winter wheat sales, at a four-week low of 146,500 tonnes, were uninspiring, dropping some 95,000 tonnes week on week.


Soft red winter wheat, as traded in Chicago, came in at a modest 12,560 tonnes, although for 2017-18 so far are bang in line with year-ago levels.


Still it was hard red spring wheat which really let the side down this week, with net cancellations of 42,989 tonnes, making it the worst week for the class since April 2015.


‘Encouraging sign’


Corn data proved more upbeat, coming in at 1.08m tonnes, up some 130,000 tonnes week on week, and falling within the range of market expectations of 900,000-1.30m tonnes.


Still, it was cotton which again showed the quickest pair of heels in order terms, with export sales of 357,000 running bales for upland cotton for this season, and a further 17,500 running bales of pima.


That represented a second upbeat trade figure for cotton, after customs data showed Chinese imports last month up 89% year on year at 78,128 tonnes.


“This is an encouraging sign that the demand for the fibre will continue to deplete the still large Chinese reserves,” said Tobin Gorey at Commonwealth bank of Australia said.


Orders vs exports


Still, the 39% surge year on year in US cotton export commitments to 9.81m running bales, upland and pima combined, is not quite what it seems.


Actual exports are down 40% year on year at 2.15m running bales, with upland cotton volumes of 85,600 running bales last week the lowest of the marketing year, which started in August, and indeed the lowest since January 2016.


Will the orders turn into actual shipments?


Even with Black Friday bargains, US cotton exporters may be wise not to spend their profits before they are banked.

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