Market Breifs | April 3, 2024

PUBLISHED April 3, 2024

USDA released the first 2024 survey-based crop estimates last week. It came as no surprise to the market that rice farmers intend to plant 2.932 million acres of rice, up 1% from the previous year and 11% from the previous 5-year average. Arkansas farmers reported intentions to plant 1.451 million acres, up 1% from last year and 14% from the 5-year average. The report came in below the average trade guess, but a warm, dry spring could result in a bigger crop.  This week marked the first crop progress report of the season, which showed 12% of the rice crop already in the ground. Most of that is in Louisiana and Texas, but Arkansas farmers are also in the field with 3% of the crop planted. Old-crop May futures are trending solidly lower and have fallen to a new 8-month low. Disappointing weekly exports of only 62,100 metric tons added pressure. New-crop September, on the other hand, is trading solidly sideways, between support at $14.25 and resistance near $14.65. 

Cotton farmers reported to USDA their intentions to plant 10.673 million acres this year. That’s down 13% from the 5-year average, but up 4% from last year. It’s also up from the National Cotton Council survey that was open during January and reported in February, that showed intentions for 9.8 million acres. Cotton trended sharply higher, however, early in the year, convincing some farmers to change their minds and plant more cotton. New-crop December cotton is trading in a mostly sideways pattern now, having been capped by resistance at 85 cents, which caused the rally to run out of steam. The first level of support is at 83 cents. 

Following last week’s positive USDA data, corn prices have reversed those gains. Dec 24 corn closed below its 50-day moving average support at $4.69, but remained above last week’s lows. According to the USDA’s Crop Progress report released on Monday, U.S. corn plantings are currently at 2% completed, matching last year’s progress and surpassing the 1% completed 5-year average. In Arkansas, corn planting progress stands at 4%, up from 2% last year and the 5-year average. However, corn prices seem to be restrained by ample supplies in the U.S. and expectations of significant stocks remaining. Favorable weather conditions in Brazil are also limiting gains this week. Additionally, a report from Beijing suggests that China’s efforts to reduce reliance on foreign grain may intensify this year, as local crop production can more affordably sustain a smaller livestock herd.

Soybean prices started the week slightly in the red, particularly for new crop soybeans (Nov24), although they have managed to maintain trading above the 50-day moving average. Mid-week, there was some bullish support for the soy complex due to sluggish planting prospects in the U.S., but this was counteracted by the rapid pace of Brazilian exports and a strong dollar, which diminishes the appeal of U.S. soybeans on the global market. Additionally, resistance to soybean futures is coming from factors such as U.S. supply levels and lower demand from China for U.S. soybeans. Moreover, resistance is being observed due to rainfall in the U.S. Midwest and favorable weather conditions in South America.

Nearby wheat prices (May24) are trading with a mix of upward momentum as forecasts point to drier conditions in certain areas of the U.S., as well as some weather concerns in Europe and the Black Sea wheat regions. Recent tenders issued by Jordan and Tunisia on Tuesday night suggest that international buyers are keen on making fresh purchases, particularly as prices hover near multi-year lows due to ample global wheat supplies. However, prices remain constrained by consistent Russian export loading rates in the Black Sea region and sluggish U.S. export activity. The significant purchase by Saudi Arabia reported on Monday, coupled with the anticipated absence of India from the global wheat market in the upcoming 2024/25 marketing year, is bolstering early-week gains, primarily driven by cash market activity.

Cattle futures are showing signs of topping. June has established resistance above $186 and is now moving lower. The market charged a huge bearish reversal on Monday, suggesting that further losses are possible. Boxed beef prices are declining and the cash cattle markets have been quiet this week. Packer margins are estimated to be in the red, adding additional pressure to futures.

June hogs charted a bullish reversal on Monday, moving prices to a new 14-month high. Packer demand and strong wholesale pork prices remain supportive. A seasonal reduction in slaughter totals could hamper the upward momentum if realized.