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Morning markets: soybeans revive from 'technical' price fall

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Was last week's fall in

soybeans

, the first in six weeks, nothing more than a temporary interruption of a bull market?

Thomas Mielke, the head of Oil World, seems to think so.

"We have seen a small correction last week and I think the technical correction is over," Mr Mielke told a conference in Beijing on Monday.

"I expect prices of soybeans to reach $14 [a bushel] quite soon and probably rally towards $14-$15 or above sometime in the next four-to-eight weeks, depending on South American harvest progress and harvest result."

'Active buyer'

The South American reference is to the disappointing Argentina, Brazilian and Paraguayan harvests, following drought blamed on La Nina.

Indeed, Mr Mielke said that Oil World, which last week cut its estimates for the harvest, said that another downgrade was likely for the Brazilian crop, which the German-based group currently pegs at 66.5m tonnes, down 8.8m tonnes year on year.

Meanwhile, China, the top importer, "has been an active buyer over the past few weeks," exacerbating the supply squeeze, he added.

Soybeans vs corn

The talk gave soybeans cause to make further headway in the so-called battle for acres – the spring beauty parade of crops in which their prices, and so their returns offered to growers, play a big part in their seedings, and thereby in final production.

It is

corn

which has been winning, with US seedings set to rise strongly from last year's 91.9m acres, boosted not just by decent returns from the grain but a warm start to the US spring, which favours corn, as an earlier-sown crop than soybeans.

Farm Futures on Friday released a corn estimate of 95.1m acres, based on a farmer survey.

"US farmers are expected to plant the largest area with corn since World War II, with the mild and dry winter enabling sowings to get off to a quick start this spring," Lynette Tan at Phillip Futures said.

Area is also being boosted by "the revival of land that could not be planted last year due to flooding, along with areas coming out of a conservation programme".

Ms Tan added: "The US, the world's largest corn grower and exporter, needs a bumper corn harvest this fall to replenish its stocks, which this summer are forecast to be the smallest in about 16 years."

Key ratio

But US soybeans made a late appeal for farmers' attention, and get into spring sowing plans

While Chicago corn was a meagre 0.5 cents higher at $6.47 a bushel at 09:10 GMT, and the new crop December lot down 0.3% at $5.55 ¾ a bushel, soybeans did better.

The May soybean contract added 0.8% to $13.77 ¼ a bushel, while the November lot added 0.6% to $13.31 a bushel.

That took the new crop corn-to-soybean ratio to 2.39, just about the highest of the last year, and well above levels of 2.00 or lower reached late in 2011.

More cattle being fed

Corn is also being depressed by ideas of higher seedings in other producing countries too, including areas where winterkill has created higher-than-expected areas for sowing with spring crops.

Luke Mathews at Commonwealth Bank of Australia flagged "expectations that European/former Soviet Union corn acreage may increase strongly as farmers replant failed winter

wheat

crops to corn".

At least, in one bull point for the grain, the US cattle on feed report released late on Friday showed the feedlot population rising faster than analysts had expected, thanks to higher-than forecast placements and a drop in marketings.

"Placements and cattle inventories could be supportive to feed grains," Benson Quinn Commodities said.

'Not a lot of will'

Wheat

was the worst of the bunch, not having to fight quite so hard for spring sowings, given that most of it is winter sown, and not doing so badly this season, compared with the last one, and with US and world inventories ample.

Indeed, currently, the market seems happy to allow weak spring sowings.

"Recent private estimates, a couple of which were survey based, indicate that producers intend to plant 12.1m-12.6m acres of spring wheat. The prior USDA estimate was 13.7m acres" Benson Quinn's Brian Henry said.

"I tend to agree with the private estimates as there doesn't seem to be a lot of will to plant spring wheat in eastern regions of the spring wheat growing area.

"Additionally, the solid barley bids offered late in the winter did attract plenty of interest in western North Dakota."

Investor positioning

Minneapolis spring wheat fell 0.2% to $8.16 a bushel for May, with the Chicago May soft red winter contract doing slightly worse, down 0.2% at $6.53 a bushel.

The Chicago lot was sapped not just by current supply fundamentals (although European dryness has that under review) but regulatory data late on Friday showing speculators had closed a further stack of short positions, leaving the net short at 33,500 contracts, well below highs reached last month.

A smaller net short position gives speculators more scope for increasing it again, ie selling wheat.

Conversely, a stack of long positions may dull investors' appetite for more of them – a potential issue in soybeans, after the speculative net long hit its highest in at least two years, above 200,000 contracts, and

sugar

.

An upbeat estimate by US Department of Agriculture attaches for the next wheat crop in Australia, the top southern hemisphere exporter, also did its bit to dampen sentiment.

Chinese reference

Chicago movements related to those in China too, where Dalian soybeans jumped 1.3% to 4,561 yuan a tonne for September delivery, while September corn dropped 0.7% to 2,447 yuan a tonne.

This narrowed the arbitrage incentivising Chinese importers to buy US corn rather than domestic supplies.

Meanwhile, Zhengzhou

cotton

dropped 0.4% to 21,295 yuan a tonne, a negative influence (China is the top importer and consumer of the fibre) on New York prices, which dropped 0.1% to89.53 cents a pound for May.

By Agrimoney.com

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