Lower-than-expected corn export estimate headlines ho-hum USDA report

There were no big surprises in the USDA’s February supply/demand report on Tuesday, although it had a slightly bearish tone thanks to a lower-than-expected corn export estimate.

U.S. corn ending stocks for 2020-21 were reduced by 50 million bushels compared to the January report on a 50 million bushel increase in exports driven by China. Corn carryout was still pegged at 1.502 billion bushels — about 100 million bushels higher than the average pre-report trade guess, as analysts were expecting a larger increase in exports to China.

The U.S. soybean ending stock estimate was very close to the average analyst projection, coming in at 120 million. The soybean export figure was raised 20 million while the domestic crush estimate was unchanged.

For wheat, the department left its domestic ending stock estimate unchanged at 836 million bushels — also in line with trade expectations. Globally, the USDA adjusted its all-wheat ending stock number lower from 313 to 304 million metric tonnes on increased demand from China and India. The USDA’s estimate for 2020-21 Canadian wheat ending stocks was also reduced from 5.03 to 4.63 million metric tonnes.

Nearby corn and wheat futures ended trade on Tuesday down between 5 and 10 cents a bushel on the bearish sentiment stemming from the USDA’s corn export estimate, while soybean futures closed between 11 and 14 cents higher. (Old crop canola was also up, with the nearby March contract closing back above $700/MT .)

There’s an extra level of attention being paid to U.S. crop prices through February, as not only is there competition for spring acres, but it’s also the “discovery period” for U.S. crop insurance values.

The next World Agricultural Supply/Demand Estimates (WASDE) release is slated for March 9.

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