The head scratching and teeth sucking for much of the week about what the ProFarmer tour of Midwest crops would come up with in terms of yield estimates gave way to a buying a spree, as the market jury went with a yield of – well, below the 153.0 bushels an acre the US Department of Agriculture is estimating.
"We are in full fledged supply panic mode in the corn market," Darrell Holaday at Country Futures said.
"Today’s move is confirmation that the market is thinking much lower than 150 bushels an acre."
‘Punishment has to be given’
How much lower it is difficult to say. But if the yield "is truly 142 bushels an acre or lower, there is a lot of punishment that has to be given to end users to stop the consumption of corn", Mr Holaday said.
"Punishment" in terms of higher prices that is, and Mr Holaday talked of a "corn price above $8 a bushel this time of year" that "opens the door to a lot of things, not the least of which could be a political move with ethanol".
But we are getting ahead of ourselves. What the market factored in on Friday, with a 3.2% jump to $7.67 a bushel for the December contract, clearly a contract closing high, we may have a better idea of in the next session, when investors have their first chance to react to the actual tour results.
These, released just after the Chicago close, put the corn yield at 147.9 bushels per acre, and production at 12.484bn bushels. (The USDA output estimate is 12.914bn bushels.)
‘No soaking rains…’
As an extra boost to prices, whatever yield is being talked about, is the idea that there may be buyers out there after all, with Wednesday’s firm weekly US ethanol data, showing production of the biofuel up by 5,000 barrels a day to 904,000 barrels a day, followed up with a mammoth export order.
The US Department of Agriculture revealed the sale of 366,000 tonnes of US corn to an unknown buyer.
Furthermore, there is no rain relief on the way, although this is more use in reviving soybeans at this stage than corn.
"No soaking rains are expected in the Corn Belt over the next 10 days," US Commodities said.
And then there were the outside market to factor in, with sharemarkets, eventually, taking as positive a long-awaited speech by Ben Bernanke, the head of the US Federal Reserve, which was short on specifics about boosting the US economy, but had enough supportive comments.
Stuff like "the Federal Reserve has a range of tools that could be used to provide additional monetary stimulus", which many would see as inflationary, and thereby a boost to commodity prices.
Indeed, the average commodity added 1.0%, as measured by the CRB index, with a falling safe haven of the dollar, down 0.6% and another sign of greater investor confidence, helping by making dollar denominated assets more competitive as exports.
Entertainment, or intelligence?
So the CRB’s result meant soybeans were among the best performing commodities too, adding 2.2% to $14.23 ½ a bushel for November, pulled up by corn and the weather outlook.
Soybeans may, however, have more trouble holding on their gains, with the ProFarmer tour estimating the US yield at 41.8 bushels per acre, 0.4 bushels per acre above the USDA estimate, and the harvest at 3.083bn, an extra 27m bushels.
Bulls may have to hope that comments from the UK grain arm of a major commodities house are right, that "the tour’s value as entertainment may be greater than its value as market information", to judge by a corn yield estimate last year which ended up more than 11 bushels an acre too big.
‘Planting into dust’
Wheat, meanwhile, proved a grain of two halves, with the hard grains soaring, helped by the continued drought in the southern Plains, hard red winter wheat country.
"Now the worry is that growers will not be prepared to plant into dust," with the sowing window about to open, the UK grain merchant said.
"Unless it rains soon, they may choose to drill spring crops such ascotton, or even not plant anything at all and hope to be able to claim on their ‘prevent planting’ insurance."
Kansas hard red winter wheat closed up 2.2% at a two-month high of $8.66 a bushel for September, with Minneapolis hard red spring wheat up 2.8% at $9.34 ¾ a bushel.
That was far better than the softer wheats could manage, such as Chicago soft red winter wheat, which added 0.7% to $7.62 ¼ a bushel (albeit also a two-month closing high).
In Europe, Paris wheat for November added 0.8% to a two-month top of E210.25 a tonne, restrained somewhat by forecasts of a break to the rains which have been delaying Germany’s harvest, while London wheat for the same month closed up 1.1% at £171.75 a tonne.
‘Not bad, terrible’
Thinking of cotton, New York’s December lot closed up 1.6% at 102.99 cents a pound, getting a lift from the better external markets, besides the continued drought in the South, where much US cotton is grown.
Not that this seemed a just result to everyone, given Thursday’s US weekly export numbers, and with Hurricane Irene not looking a major threat to American cotton crops.
"Export numbers weren’t bad, they were terrible. Cancellations for both marketing years… but what the hey," Jurgens Bauer at PitGuru said.
Another sugar downgrade
Other softs were higher too, with cocoa helped by an International Cocoa Organization caution over next season’s world production, helping New York’s December lot closed up 1.6% at $3,075 a tonne.
Meanwhile, sugar gained ground on another downgrade by Kingsman, the Swiss consultancy, to its forecast for the cane harvest in Brazil’s Centre South, cutting the estimate by 27m tonnes to 498m tonnes.
The forecast sugar yield in cane was cut from 137 kilogrammes per tonne to 134.5 kilogrammes per tonne, and for sugar output by 1.24m tonnes to 30.63m tonnes,
Meanwhile, Kingsman came up with an estimate of a sizeable 2.45m tonnes for China’s sugar imports in 2012 too.
Raw sugar for October delivery added 1.9% to 30.22 cents a pound in New York, closing pretty much at its intraday high.