U.S. grains: Corn, soy soar on bullish USDA plantings forecast

Chicago | Reuters — U.S. corn futures jumped nearly four per cent on Thursday and soybeans surged more than two per cent after the U.S. Department of Agriculture stunned traders by projecting a year-on-year decline in soybean plantings and a larger-than-expected drop in corn acres.

Chicago Board of Trade wheat futures followed the firm trend, despite the USDA’s forecast of an expansion in total wheat plantings from a year ago.

CBOT May corn settled up 14-1/4 cents at $3.87-3/4 a bushel (all figures US$). May soybeans ended up 26-3/4 cents at $10.44-3/4 a bushel and May wheat rose 5-1/2 cents at $4.51.

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The most-active corn contract rose 3.8 per cent, the biggest single-day climb since July, after USDA forecast U.S. corn plantings for 2018 at 88.026 million acres, down two per cent from 2017 and below an average of trade expectations.

The government projected soybean plantings at 88.982 million acres, down one per cent from 2017 and below a range of estimates from analysts, most of whom were expecting an increase in soybean acreage.

“With both corn and soybean acres down from a year ago and expectations, it seems that the relatively poor returns for both crops (historically), along with the prospect of losing soybean business with China, has cooled expansion of total acres,” said Alex Norton, analyst at Beeson Inc.

The market shrugged off pressure from USDA’s larger-than-expected quarterly corn and soy stocks figures. The government reported March 1 corn stocks in all positions at 8.888 billion bushels and soybean stocks at 2.107 billion, both above most analyst estimates.

“The stocks data is actually a little bit negative,” said Jack Scoville, analyst at The Price Futures Group. “Overall, we do have the supply; that’s not changing.”

CBOT wheat futures followed corn and soybeans higher, despite USDA forecasting a three per cent expansion in total wheat acres.

Most of the growth came in plantings for spring wheat, which the government put at 12.6 million acres, up from 11 million in 2017. That factor pressured Minneapolis Grain Exchange spring wheat futures, with the MGEX May contract falling 11 cents to $5.78-1/2 a bushel.

USDA reported March 1 wheat stocks at 1.494 billion bushels, in line with expectations.

“Farmers still see (spring wheat) as a potential money-maker, following last year’s weather-reduced crop. With wheat stocks coming in near expectations, the bigger planted area data provided some pressure to wheat markets, despite strength for corn/beans,” Norton said.

— Julie Ingwersen is a commodities correspondent for Reuters in Chicago; additional reporting by Naveen Thukral in Singapore and Sybille de La Hamaide in Paris.

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