Perils aplenty in markets with arrival of spring

by Josh Sosland
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It isn’t often that corn futures prices fall nearly a dollar a bushel over the course of two days, but that is what happened in the wake of a stocks report issued March 28 characterized by one analyst as bearish and “the biggest market miss ever.” The data had the effect of pressuring not only corn prices, but wheat futures and the soy complex as well. With the 2013 wheat carryover forecast described in a markets roundtable in this issue as adequate, the stage appeared set for a lower wheat price regime in the approaching crop year.

That may yet prove to be accurate, but as a subsequent market rally indicated, these prospects are hardly certain. Spring and summer weather vagaries always cast doubt over prospects for new crop, and that’s the case this year notwithstanding favorable signs cited by meteorologists. More importantly for 2013 crop wheat, hard winter conditions going into winter dormancy were the worst in a decade, and the figures have barely improved as the crop has emerged from dormancy.

Compounding the potential impact of hard winter prospects on prices, China has suddenly emerged in U.S. markets as a buyer of wheat. As of late last week sales of 360,000 tonnes of new crop soft red were confirmed. That’s more wheat than China purchased in total in 2012 and suggests market moving potential from this buyer. Yes, optimism for ingredient buyers is warranted, but caution certainly is required.

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