Strong weekly exports push soybean prices higher

by Ron Sterk
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KANSAS CITY — Weekly export sales of soybeans well above trade expectations, along with concerns that nearly ideal weather may turn dryer, pulled soybean futures off two-year lows and pushed values to one-week highs early July 24.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture in its weekly export sales report said net sales of U.S. soybeans in the week ended July 17 were 226,700 tonnes for the current 2013-14 marketing year, which ends Aug. 31, and 2,451,100 tonnes for 2014-15. The two-year total of 2,677,800 tonnes was well above trade expectations that ranged from 1,290,000 to 1,920,000 tonnes for the combined years.

The major buyer for both years was China, taking 70% of the weekly 2013-14 sales and 52% of the 2014-15 sales, with “unknown destinations,” which often turns out to be China, taking another 39% of the 2014-15 total.

CME Group soybean futures traded more than 20c a bu higher early Thursday, hitting one-week highs, before pulling back some as trading progressed through the morning. Soybean futures prices sank to two-year lows of $10.55 a bu (nearby new crop November contract) earlier in the week on continued favorable weather and U.S.D.A. crop condition ratings, which at 73% good to excellent as of July 20 were the highest in 20 years. The new lows were expected to spur new export sales demand.

Even though the week’s 2013-14 sales of 226,700 tonnes were within the range of trade expectations (90,000 to 320,000 tonnes), continued strong sales in the current year will further pinch limited old crop soybean supplies, or push prices high enough to ration remaining inventory. The U.S.D.A. estimates Aug. 31 stocks will be 3.82 million tonnes. Year-to-date soybean export sales (shipped and unshipped) total 45,837,000 tonnes for 2013-14, which is above the U.S.D.A.’s full-year estimate of 44,090,000 tonnes with six weeks remaining in the current marketing year. 

The U.S. soybean crop is forecast to be record large in 2014 with planted area record high and favorable weather expected to result in strong yields. Forecasts for a drying trend mainly in the western Corn Belt provided some price support, but forecasts for the bulk of the Corn Belt remain favorable for the prime “soybean making” period in August.
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