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Image of grain bins with words Grain market week in review with Bryce Knorr and Ben Potter in white. Entire image has red tint.

Grain prices finish rough week on positive note

Grain market week in review - favorable weather forecasts and ongoing trade war drag on market

Missed some market news this week? Here’s what Bryce Knorr and Ben Potter have reported. 

Crop progress 

Development of 2019 crops is all over the place in this unusual growing season, growers reported on Feedback from the Field last week. Corn yields averaged 161.3 bushels per acre in this first round of estimates, ranging from 110 bpa all the way up to 240 bpa. Soybean guesses averaged 42.4 bpa, ranging from 25 to 70 bpa. Overall, condition ratings for both crops improved a little last week but are still a little below average. 

In the latest USDA Crop Progress report, corn condition moved a point higher, with 58% of the crop in good-to-excellent condition for the week ending July 28. For soybeans, the overall percentage of the crop in good-to-excellent condition held steady at 54%. Spring wheat crop condition took a noticeable step lower, from 76% rated good-to-excellent a week ago down to 73%. Winter wheat harvest is rolling along with harvest progress at 75% across the top 18 production states, up from 69% a week ago.  

Market recaps 

Grain futures are higher this morning, rebounding from a break Thursday to new summer lows. While the latest salvos in the U.S.-China trade war added to demand pressure yesterday, traders are starting to get into position for USDA’s big Aug. 12 crop reports.  

Grain prices finished a rough week on a positive note, as bargain buyers lifted corn, soybean and wheat prices moderately today. Two big headwinds – favorable weather forecasts and struggling U.S.-China trade negotiations – may continue to cause problems moving forward, however. Corn prices gained about 1.75% Friday, with soybeans up 0.5% in the session and some wheat contracts adding more than 3%. 

Exports 

The latest USDA export inspection report, out Monday morning, showed a mixed but mostly positive batch of data. Soybeans proved to be the big winner for the week ending July 25 after Chinese buyers shipped out 22.1 million bushels of the 173 million in outstanding soybean sales they still had on the books. 

Anyone hoping for a positive round of export sales data will have to wait another week after looking at the latest USDA data, out Thursday morning. China booked a couple of cargoes last week, including both old and new crop soybeans, but buyers so far aren’t responding to Beijing’s signals they can avoid tariffs on new purchases. 

Audio 

While parts of the Corn Belt need a drink and won’t get one this week, grain markets moved lower overnight after USDA reported steady to better conditions Monday. Traders are also backing off from risky bets while waiting to see if trade talks with China produce any results as the Federal Reserve gets ready to cut interest rates for the first time in a decade. 

Trade talks broke off earlier than expected today in China, signaling no end to the standoff. China’s foreign minister said the blame lies with the U.S. after President Trump criticized China yesterday. While grain futures drifted lower, stocks appear headed for a higher opening on Wall Street today as the Federal Reserve prepares to cut interest rates for the first time in a decade. 

Grain markets are trying to turn higher as August trading begins following a terrible July for prices. Futures plunged to new lows for the month yesterday though selling wasn’t tied to the bloodbath on Wall Street. Stocks plunged after the Federal Reserve cut interest rates as expected but indicated the move wasn’t the start of the long-term easing sought by President Trump. 

Grain futures are trying to rebound this morning after taking a shellacking Thursday from weak exports and more salvos in the trade war with China. Other demand news about ethanol and soybean crush was also disappointing yesterday, but dry weather over parts of the Corn Belt looks ready to continue another week as markets gear up for USDA’s Aug. 12 reports. 

Outlooks 

Basis outlook - The great flood of 2019 is mostly just a bad memory. But the impact of the disaster is still being felt on the river system, where fallout from high water levels came back with a vengeance last week. Barge freight rates soared, raising the cost of moving corn from the Illinois River to the Gulf by 9.75 cents a bushel. While river levels on the Illinois are finally below flood stage, repairs to two locks tied up traffic on the waterway. Levels on the Upper Mississippi River north of St. Louis are expected to fall below flood stage by the end of the week. But restrictions continue from the Twin Cities down to the Gulf, increasing turnaround times and making empty barges scarce. 

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