After the Bell: Grains, Soy Finish Higher to Start 2019 on Weather, China Trade Optimism

Posted on 01/04/2019 2:47 PM

Corn:  Corn futures closed up 3 cents in the nearby contracts today, hit two-week highs and closed at technically bullish weekly highs. For the week, March corn futures gained 7 3/4 cents. Look for some follow-through technical buying strength early next week, following strength seen this week. "Outside markets" will play an important role in grain price action next week. Continued rebounds in the U.S. stock market and crude oil prices would benefit the grain market bulls and lift trader and investor risk appetite. Today's upbeat employment report could prompt some more perceived bargain hunting in U.S. equities next week, as well as higher oil prices. USDA will not release its key, price-sensitive annual Crop Production and Quarterly Grains Stocks reports as originally scheduled on Jan. 11. USDA will announce the new release dates as soon as government funding is restored. Drier, warmer conditions in Brazil are maintaining the drier pattern that has been in place for central Brazil since Dec. 1. Thirty days of much-below-normal rainfall in the region will make corn market traders keenly focused on weather patterns in South America in the coming weeks.

Soybeans:  Soybean futures finished higher for a third consecutive day, ending 8 to 9 cents higher today. Meal futures were $2-plus higher and soyoil gained around 20 points. For the week, March soybean futures rallied 26 cents. South American weather became a greater focal point this week, with Brazilian crop estimates declining amid a month of hot temps and below-normal rainfall in some southern and central areas. Some of the dry areas are expected to get rains over the weekend. Attention will be on amounts and coverage levels. If the rains are disappointing, additional price gains are likely. The other focal point will be on whether progress is made during the U.S./China trade talks Jan. 7-8 in Beijing. USDA has delayed its January crop reports originally scheduled for next Friday due to the shutdown. A record Brazilian soybean crop was virtually assured a couple weeks ago. Now, a growing number of crop watchers say this year’s crop could fall short of last year’s record. There are also some concerns with saturated soils and flooding in areas of Argentina. South American soybean production is still expected to rise nearly 11% from last year, but the increase won’t be nearly as much as once feared.

Wheat:  Winter wheat futures rose on Friday, capping the first weekly gain since December 7 in SRW futures and halting a two-week decline in HRW futures. March SRW rose 5 ½ cents this week and March HRW futures gained a dime. Traders will be looking for indications to confirm rumors that China is buying U.S. HRW and spring wheat. China has a 9.6 million-metric-ton tariff rate quota for wheat imports that may allow state-run companies to buy U.S. wheat without paying current tariffs. The U.S./China have officially scheduled trade talks starting Monday in Beijing. That’s first meeting of the two sides since a 90-day truce was agreed upon in Argentina. USDA’s Winter Wheat Seedings report has been delayed past the scheduled Jan. 11 release with the ongoing partial government shutdown. That report may show adverse weather and low prices cut planted acreage from a year ago, dropping the area to the lowest since records began in 1909.

Cotton:  Cotton futures posted gains of 125 to 169 points through the December 2019 contract today. For the week, March cotton futures firmed 33 points. The cotton market continues to respond to outside markets, pulling support from a rebound in the U.S. stock market and a drop in the U.S. dollar index today. Since there isn’t a lot of fresh fundamental news with the partial government shutdown, much of traders’ focus is likely to remain on outside markets next week. USDA has delayed its January Crop Production and Supply & Demand Reports originally scheduled for next Friday due to the shutdown. While there has been a lot of talk about China buying U.S. commodities in an attempt to smooth over trade relations, cotton hasn’t gotten much attention. China’s slowing economy is a concern for its textile industry, which will keep traders from getting excited until some Chinese purchases of U.S. cotton are confirmed. There will be no official confirmation from USDA until the government shutdown ends.

Hogs:  Hog futures traded both sides of unchanged and closed lower and in the bottom half of the daily range. February hogs fell 20 cents to close at $61.95. That was up $1.30 for the week, halting a three-week drop. Wholesale pork prices and cash hog bids both moved higher this week, a positive start to the new year. The return to a regular work week next week will be a better barometer of pork and packer demand.  The U.S./China have officially scheduled trade talks starting Monday in Beijing, the first face-to-face meeting of the two sides since a 90-day truce was agreed upon in Argentina. U.S. President Donald Trump said on Friday that phone talks between Washington and Beijing aimed at resolving a bitter trade dispute were going "very well."  The market probably needs to see evidence of Chinese pork buying to resume the rally that began back in August.

Cattle:  Live cattle futures closed down $1.325 in the February and April contracts today. Prices closed nearer their daily lows and closed at technically bearish weekly low closes today. For the week, February live cattle lost $2.725. Feeder cattle futures closed down $1.70 to $1.80 in the nearbys and also closed at bearish weekly low closes today. Fund selling and profit taking were featured in the live cattle futures markets today, which is likely to prompt some follow-through technical selling early next week. Warm conditions in the Plains in the coming days will make for muddy feedlots next week.The futures markets today ignored steady-to-firm cash cattle bids this week around $123, but with post-holiday beef trading strong this week, look for any downside price pressure in cattle futures to be limited next week.

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