US corn and wheat prices may be depressed – but not depressed enough to entice orders from importers.
European Union wheat exports this week were not greater either.
US exporters booked 599,200 tonnes of sales for the week to last Thursday – a figure down 45% week on week, and well below market expectations of 700,000-1.0m tonnes.
For wheat, the US Department of Agriculture data showed export sales of 184,400 tonnes for the latest week, the lowest in four months, and below forecasts of a figure between 250,000-450,000 tonnes.
That the sales figure was down only 8% week on week reflected the poor performance in the previous period too - although to be fair, the latest data were for a period that ended with the Thanksgiving holiday.
Hard vs soft
By type, hard red winter wheat, traded as Kansas City wheat, proved notably soft, down 62% week on week at 55,382 tonnes.
Hard red spring wheat, as traded in Minneapolis, weren’t great, at 36,486 tonnes, but at least positive this time, after showing net cancellations last time.
US exports of lower-protein soft red winter wheat, the type traded in Chicago, came in at a more respectable 34,449 tonnes, near tripling week on week.
Separately, the European Commission reported EU soft wheat exports this week at 296,000 tonnes, slipping behind the pace of recent weeks.]
Indeed, they almost fell below corn imports, pegged at 287,000 tonnes, taking the total this season to 5.84m tonnes, a rise of 59% year on year.
US soybean export sales were at least, at 942,900 tonnes, within the range of expectations, of 800,000-1.20m tonnes, and up 8% week on week, if hardly coming in at bonanza levels.
The fact that top buyer China accounted for 717,700 tonnes may be viewed as encouraging by some investors, given the country’s huge appetite. Furthermore, the USDA unveiled separately, through its daily alerts system, the sale of 657,000 tonnes of soybeans, 525,000 tonnes booked to China, and the balance to "unknown".
And even cotton sales were a bit softer this time, down 23% week on week at 276,500 running bales for upland cotton only, although this does represent a decent level.
Sales vs exports
Still, the immediate market reaction was to send New York cotton futures for March, which had been little changed in the run up to the statistics, to 72.87 cents a pound, a 0.8% drop, before the contract recovered some ground.
Indeed, the lot had halved these losses by the time the data were half an hour old.
One compensation for cotton bulls is that the statistics showed actual exports of upland cotton jumping 31% week on week to 112,200 running bales.
It is the level of shipments, rather than orders, which has been concerning investors.