Wheat prices at the three U.S. futures markets moved higher on Thursday after USDA made a larger-than-expected reduction in end-of-the-year stocks due to an expected increase in exports.
Wheat exports were increased by 50 million bushels to 1.025 billion bushels and ending stocks were lowered a similar amount to 1.139 billion.
Corn futures briefly moved higher after USDA increased the amount of grain it expects to be used this year for ethanol and food production. Those increases in turn led to a small reduction in ending stocks. Soybean futures moved lower after USDA left key numbers unchanged, contrary to trade forecasts for a small reduction in ending stocks.
“The biggest surprises today came in wheat. Lower world and U.S. ending stocks triggered some short covering by funds that still have on a big bearish bet in soft red winter wheat futures,” said Bryce Knorr, Farm Futures senior grain analyst. “The bigger question may be whether this is just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, because there’s no indication burdensome world supplies are going away any time soon.”
While the changes may be premature, Knorr said export business for wheat has increased plus there are concerns about sub-zero weather hurting winter wheat in the Black Sea region.
U.S. domestic corn use for food and ethanol production this year was raised to put end-of-the-year stocks at 2.32 billion bushels, which is down from its January forecast and under the average trade forecast.
“If ethanol exports hold up, further cuts may be ahead,” Knorr said of the ending stocks. “An increase in exports is not out of the question depending on how the South American crop turns out.”
U.S. soybean ending stocks were unchanged at 420 million bushels. That was contrary to an average trade forecast for a small reduction. Exports remained at 2.05 billion bushels.
Also on Thursday, USDA left Argentina’s corn crop unchanged at 36.5 million metric tons, while soybeans there were lowered less than expected to 55.5 million from January’s 57 million. The trade, on average, expected about 36 million on the corn and 54 million on the soybeans.
USDA left Brazil’s corn and soybean production unchanged at 86.5 million and 104 million metric tons, respectively, contrary to forecasts for a slight increase in both crops.
“USDA made a modest reduction to soybean production in Argentine due to floods, but not as much as I anticipated,” Knorr said. “The bigger surprise was no change in Brazil. That’s what I penciled in, but local estimates there increased in the last few days.”
Argentina and Brazil are harvesting corn now. Traders will be looking at Brazil’s weather into spring, when its second crop will be developing. That harvest will be in May and June.