First Thing Today (VIP) -- August 20, 2012

August 20, 2012 01:42 AM



CORN AND SOYBEAN FUTURES FIRMER; WHEAT MIXED... As of 6:30 a.m. CT, corn futures are mostly 7 to 8 cents higher, soybean futures are 3 to 14 cents higher and wheat futures are favoring a firmer tone in mixed trade. Outside markets are mixed, with the U.S. dollar index and crude oil firmer, while gold is weaker.

PRO FARMER MIDWEST CROP TOUR BEGINS... Crop scouts on the Pro Farmer Midwest Crop Tour will begin sampling today. Scouts on the eastern leg of the Tour will travel from Columbus, Ohio, and meet in Fishers, Indiana, tonight. Scouts on the western leg of the Tour will travel from Sioux Falls, South Dakota, to Grand Island, Nebraska. Official Tour results will be released for Ohio and South Dakota tonight.

ON TAP THIS WEEK... Besides the Pro Farmer Midwest Crop Tour, a slow week ahead for economic reports, a food price update on Friday, and Russia's official entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO) are the key highlights this week. Wednesday will bring more details on the August meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting with a focus on how much discussion took place on actions to bolster the U.S. economy. The statement issued after the meeting was stronger than previously on the Fed pledging to help the economy, so the minutes may shed some light on the strength of that viewpoint.

RUSSIA OFFICIALLY JOINS THE WTO ON WEDNESDAY... Before the U.S. can garner the concessions Russia agreed to for its WTO accession, the U.S. Congress must grant it permanent normal trade relations (PNTR), an action expected after lawmakers return Sept. 10 from their summer recess.

FURTHER CUTS EXPECTED TO RUSSIA'S GRAIN HARVEST... With harvest beginning in Urals and Siberia, two main crop estimating firms in Russia have lowered their production estimates. SovEcon has narrowed their grain forecast to 71 million metric tons (MMT) to 72.5 MMT from 70 MMT to 74 MMT previously and has cut its wheat forecast to 39 MMT to 41 MMT from 40.5 MMT to 42.5 MMT previously. The Institute for Agricultural Market Studies (IKAR) has cut the 2012 grain crop forecast to 73 MMT from 75.4 MMT and said it sees a possibility of further downgrades.

JAPAN'S CORN-FOR-FEED USE DROPS FOR SIXTH MONTH... According to preliminary government data, Japan's corn-for-feed use fell for the sixth straight month to a 20-year low in June. The data showed the ratio of corn in animal feed fell to 43.3% in June, compared to 45.8% a year-ago. Meanwhile, the ratio of wheat in Japan's feed production rose to 3.9% from 1% a year-ago.

FOOD PRICES ON THE VERGE OF RISING IN CHINA... Retail prices of soybean oil -- a staple in the Chinese diet -- so far have held steady despite the rising cost of soybeans, which has officials in the country concerned about food stability since Chinese consumers devote more than 20% of their monthly income to food. The Los Angeles Times reports a Beijing-based analyst for IHS Global Insight says food inflation is being watched carefully by the Chinese government, as it has a history of sparking discontent.

CATTLE ON FEED REPORT SLIGHTLY NEGATIVE... Friday's Cattle on Feed Report showed On Feed at 101% of year-ago levels, which was just slightly above the average trade guess of 100.7% of year-ago. Traders are giving the report a neutral read, meaning focus will be on the boxed beef market to start the week.

PORK CUTOUT VALUES FIRM... Pork cutout values were 36 cents firmer to end the week to lift packers' profit margins slightly and increase slaughter schedules. But given a plentiful supply of hogs to draw from, the cash hog market is expected to start the week steady to $1 lower. Pressure on lean hog futures should be limited to start the week given the sharp discount nearby contracts hold to the cash index.

WEEKEND DEMAND NEWS... Taiwan purchased 94,250 metric tons (MT) of milling wheat to be sourced from the United States. Bangladesh has tendered to purchase 50,000 MT of wheat.

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