Market Briefs | February 7, 2024

Old crop rice futures continue to climb, setting new highs a few times a week. Export sales have been fueling the rally. Asian prices are strong, making U.S. rice more competitive. Last week, however, exports of 42,100 metric tons were down 24% from the prior four-week average. The export restrictions set by India last year continue to have an impact on the global market, and it was announced last week that the restrictions will be in place until at least the fall. The first resistance for March futures is the high of $18.58. New crop futures are not seeing the same support at the moment. Input costs are down and the moisture situation in California is much improved. The market is waiting for planting intentions to be clear but the situation in India will keep food security concerns top of mind.

Strong demand both on the domestic front and from export customers has led to nearly four-month highs in cotton futures. Weekly export sales of 349,400 bales was up 37% from the four-week average. China accounted for more than a third of that total. Shipments last week set a marketing year high of 349,400 bales. March cotton has traded as high as 88 cents, and the contract high near 90 cents is the target for bulls. New crop December futured are challenging resistance at 82.50 cents. The recent rally could help attract acres as farmers finalize their planting decisions, but this week’s Arizona court ruling vacating the label for over-the-top application of dicamba products for the 2024 crop will obviously have an impact on planting decisions, too. 

Prices have moved lower with bear spreading noted as traders got ready for the Goldman roll, which started on Wednesday. Support for March 2024 rests at $4.36, with resistance at $4.53. Spot corn prices approach long-term support, backed by a record net-long position on the commercial side of the market. However, the market lacks a bullish trigger to prompt speculators to exit their short positions, almost a four year high, typically requiring a surprise event. Export inspections at 25 million bushels fell below expectations and the pace needed to meet the USDA export forecast of 2.10 billion bushels. The USDA announced the sale of 155,000 tons (6 million bushels) of corn to Mexico. Brazil’s second crop prospects have improved, putting a damper on any rally attempts. 

Prices have been mixed, with several contracts near session highs. Beans saw some gains, with noted bull spreading. March 2024 beans hit a fresh 7-month low this week before rebounding, with key support near $11.75 and resistance at last week’s high of $12.23. With significant bearish challenges facing U.S. soybean prices in early 2024, the trend for July soybeans remains downward. Weather concerns persist in Argentina due to extreme heat and limited rainfall, elevating stress levels. Conditions in Brazil are mostly favorable, but dryness concerns are growing in the interior south. Export inspections at 52 million bushels exceeded expectations and the pace needed to reach the USDA export forecast of 1.755 billion bushels. 

Prices across all three classes were mostly down this week, but spot March 2024 contracts remained within range of last week’s low. Technically, a close above the 100-day average at $6.53 for March KC wheat could prompt speculators to cover, but until then, prices are expected to trade within a narrow range. Beneficial rains fell over the U.S. southern plains, Gulf Coast, and delta regions, alleviating drought concerns and replenishing moisture reserves for the U.S. winter wheat crop. U.S. export inspections at 10 million bushels were as expected but below the 15 million bushels needed weekly to meet the USDA export forecast. Turkey’s Foreign Minister states its president will meet with Russian Pres. Vladimir Putin next Monday to discuss the war with Ukraine and the Black Sea Grain deal. 

The USDA released its semi-annual Cattle Inventory report last week and confirmed the continued liquidation of the U.S. cattle herd. All cattle and calves as of Jan. 1 were 98.1% of a year earlier, which is the lowest total since 1951. Beef cows were 97.5% of the previous U.S. year’s total, which is the lowest total since 1961, and the calf crop was 97.5%, the lowest since reporting began in 1977. The supply of beef replacement heifers was only 98.5% of last year, and the lowest total since 1950. That was all within pre-report estimates, so not a huge surprise to the market, but potentially bullish nonetheless. June futures are moving higher, but have long standing resistance at a chart gap between $183.40 and $184.20.