Market Monitor: Looking for direction in a snowstorm

When you live in Ashtabula County for a lifetime, you have snowstorm stories. The day I called Deerfield and said I wouldn’t be in to work because we had had three feet of snow overnight. Chardon had 54 inches.

The night I abandoned my pickup in the road, two feet above the pavement on a hard snow bank. I took off my Carhartts so I would sweat less and walked four miles in the blizzard. The snow was blowing from the left, melting on my head, then freezing as it ran off my eyebrow until my left eye was frozen over when I stumbled into the house.

The white-out

My wife and I always remember the white-out all the way from Andover. I drove 10 miles an hour up state Route 193 looking for the end of Windsor Road. A pickup, following my lights, honked impatiently behind me until I turned. Then he came to a complete stop, not having a clue where to go.

The three miles on Windsor and Howard roads took us 24 minutes. I drove with my foot on the brake. When I felt the front wheel dip off the pavement, I backed up and got straight again. We looked out the side windows, trying to get a glimpse of wires or trees on the sides above the blowing snow. I remembered the walk down this same stretch of road and was glad for the shelter of the car.

Disoriented

This morning I am looking at the road maps that are our recent corn, soybean, and wheat trading charts, and I get the same sense of disorientation. Which way are we going? Do I need to stop and reassess my direction? Is there a glimpse of anything along the trading path to give me an idea where we are headed? So far I am out of the ditch, but which way is it?

Remember January of 2012 for awhile. To describe the last three weeks as volatile is to beg the dictionary for a more-radical expression. How do we describe the trading we have seen so far? We started the year Jan. 3 with the recent high, at 6.64 1/4 March corn futures. We had gained 88 cents in two weeks, and the sky seemed to be the limit.

The dip

Two trading days later we hit a bump in the road and we were down 25 cents from the high. We traded there a day, then went back up near the high. We reassured ourselves that the dip was nothing, but a couple of lower days led to the awful 40-cent drop when the USDA reports came out. What do you know? We have more corn supply and a bigger crop than anyone expected.

The drop increased, with a new low of 5.92 1/2 Jan. 18. Three better days got us to 5.93 3/4, but Monday night we lost two and a half cents. Now what happens?

Soybeans

The soybean blizzard was similar. We gained $1.34 3/4 from the middle of December to the first trading day of January. Then, we dropped most of a buck. On Jan. 12 we were back to 11.50 on the March bean contract, after the 12.44 3/4 on the third. By Jan. 23, however, we were back to 12.19, with a range of more than 30 cents on the last day. Tuesday morning finds us down 6 3/4 cents, and 12.10 3/ 4.

Wheat

The wheat trading is similar, with wheat prices virtually identical to corn. March wheat futures closed the overnight session at 6.17 1/4, down 2 1/2 cents. The March corn was at 6.17 1/2, down the same 2 1/2 cents. I am not sure what it means when the prices are the same, but I will remember it.

The wheat is 80 cents off the high, and the direction is confused.

So, what do we have?

The prices went up with hot and dry weather in South America. They went down with a little rain there, and with surprises in the USDA reports. They went back up when the rain was termed “inadequate.”

Now we look for direction. Stick your head out the window and try to see the power lines to find some kind of direction.

About the Author

Marlin Clark trades producer and elevator grain from an office near Andover, Ohio for Town & Country Co-op. You can reach him for comment at 440-293-4055. More Stories by Marlin Clark

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