January 16, 2023

Big Data Week Review

The year’s first full trading week for grain markets was dominated by a busy schedule for agriculture data.

With Thursday bringing US Department of Agriculture briefings on domestic winter wheat sowings and grain stocks, as well as the monthly WASDE report, early-week deals were influenced by positioning ahead of the statistics – which in some important instances were a shock to markets.

Managed money, encouraged by continued Argentine dryness, and the strong pace of US soybean exports maintained in early 2023 its buying of Chicago corn and, especially, of soybeans, lifting its net long in the oilseed to the biggest since June last year.

Adding additional support for soy was Conab on Thursday, cutting by 2.7Mt its forecast for Brazil’s soybean exports in 2022-23, offsetting more negative data from the CASDE which lifted the estimate for China’s 2022 soybean harvest by 810Kt to 20.3Mt, besides upgrading the country’s corn crop by 1.9Mt to 277.2Mt.

For both corn and soy, the USDA reduced its estimates for domestic production, with the quarterly stocks data also signalling that feed use had proved more resilient than investors had thought. As a result, the USDA reports proved far more bullish for corn and soybeans, both of which attracted downgrades to estimates for US stocks at the close of 2022-23, in contrast to the upgrades that the market had expected.

As a result, Corn futures leaped 2.3% on the day, with soybeans adding 1.7%. These performances, ultimately resulted in a positive move for wheat, for which the reports were less positive, showing a far bigger-than-expected US winter sowings number than had been expected, up 3.7Ma from last season at an eight-year high of 37.0Ma.

With corn pushing higher, wheat markets were reluctantly dragged higher, having on Tuesday touched a multi-month low, as a GASC tender underlined the export competitiveness of Russia’s huge wheat supplies, bounced off their pre-war lows.

That said, with the US crop in poor condition heading into a winter which has brought the test of extreme cold, there are doubts as to how significantly the extra planted area will translate into increased production.

Sentiment has also been more positive on broader financial markets, supported by official data on Thursday showing the first decline in US consumer price inflation since May 2020.

Brent crude has found particular support, standing up some 7% for the week, while the dollar has fallen to seven-month lows as investors have tempered expectations for further US interest rate rises.

The USDA briefings and waning economic concerns have presented a brighter outlook for commodity demand, heading into what is a long weekend in the US.

January 16, 2023