December snow has covered the markets

Corn snow
A harvested corn field, with snow.

Winter became a lot more fun when I moved my office home. Life in Ashtabula County is dominated this time of year by the realities of heavy snow, and it is much prettier from the window of my office than it is from the window of my car.

Much of Saturday was spent shoveling and getting the local snow plow guy to clean up after the 14 inches of snow we got. Kirtland got 33 inches, so we had no bragging rights.

It was the usual thing going to church Saturday night. There was only 4 inches at the county line, five miles away. There was nothing in Niles.

National weather is dominated this week by talk of a polar event, with cold and snow over the northeast. Forecasters talk about what a disaster it could be, but it is just winter.

Covering things up

Snow means snow cover for the Plains, better wheat, and lower wheat price. Snow means winter recreation buffs pour money into outdoor activities. Snow means we cover up the yard projects we did not get finished, and put a pretty cover over any messes we had left from the fall.

The messes in the grain markets these days have to do with weather in the Southern Hemisphere and the price hangover we can’t seem to recover from. The hangover comes as we were drunk with the big crops.

Beans especially are defensive off and on because of pressure from USDA’s report last week of large global supplies.

Corn and beans made a run up last Monday, but prices did not follow through after the Monday excitement. Corn prices have been mostly sideways the last few sessions, on big ranges in price.

The beans have been erratic, with a big drop one day, then recovery the next two. Wheat prices have actually shown us a small uptrend after a contract low.

The prices

Let’s look at the prices. That March Chicago wheat contract made a contract low the first of the month at $3.93. By the 12th, Monday, we were at $4.17-3⁄4 briefly.

We are now, Tuesday morning, Dec. 13, trading at $41⁄2. Wheat is seeing pressure from our strong dollar. That is because the price is very dependent upon exports, and they have been slightly lower than expected.

We shipped offshore 16.2 million bushels last week, but anticipated 17.4 million.

Corn exports were disappointing, at 33.9 million bushels. We need 41.3 million a week to maintain our projections.

Nevertheless, we maintained our corn prices. We put the recent low Dec. 1, at $3.41-3⁄4 on the March contract. By the 6th, we were as high as $3.64. We dipped to $3.501⁄2 on Dec. 8, but are now back trading $3.591⁄2 this Tuesday morning.

The soybeans have been up and down, with a recent January low of $9.751⁄4 on Nov. 11. This was a welcome change higher, after three lows near $9.40, going back to September.

Back and forth

From the recent low, we bounced to 10.65 on Nov. 28, a gain of nearly 90 cents. We followed that with two quick cycles down, to a low of $10.21-1⁄2 on the 9th. Currently, we are at $10.363⁄4, up nearly six cents for the day so far.

Soybeans can be seen to have made major gains since harvest. We are trading well above harvest levels. The corn prices have not made similar gains, depending upon where you compare prices on the charts.

We were as high as $3.69 in late October on the March corn chart. From there we got as low as $3.433⁄4 in the middle of November. We have got back as high as $3.64 last week, but that is still lower than we were in late October.


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Marlin Clark is an associate of Russell Consulting Group, with a local office in Williamsfield, Ohio. Comments are welcome at 440-363-1803.



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