First Thing Today (VIP) -- March 21, 2014

March 21, 2014 01:50 AM

Good morning!

Corn, soybean and wheat under pressure... Profit-taking has pressed the soybean market 10 to 19 cents lower as of 6:45 a.m. CT, with old-crop leading to the downside. Corn and wheat futures saw mild followthrough sales overnight. Corn is fractionally to a penny lower while wheat futures are posting losses ranging from 2 to 5 cents. The U.S. dollar index is mildly lower, while crude oil futures are enjoying slight gains.

Fitch raised the U.S.'s credit rating outlook to "stable" while affirming the country's AAA rating... The ratings agency cited the suspension of the debt limit last month and strong fiscal consolidation as reasons for the move. Fitch had placed the U.S. on "rating watch negative" in October amid the battles in Washington over raising the debt ceiling and over the federal budget. Meanwhile, Russian assets are getting hit after escalating sanctions prompted Standard & Poor’s, the rating agency, to revise its outlook for Russian debt down to negative from stable, citing "rising geopolitical and economic risks."

EPA may lower cellulosic fuel requirement after production plant idled... Some renewable fuel analysts predict the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) may lower its 2014 requirement for cellulosic biofuel after one of the country's few commercial-scale cellulosic biofuel plant operators idled production at one of its facilities and said in a regulatory filing it may need to file for bankruptcy. KiOR Inc., the operator of the first U.S. commercial-scale cellulosic biofuel plant, said in a March 17 Securities and Exchange Commission filing it may need to file for bankruptcy, after shutting down a Columbus, Mississippi-based biofuel plant in January. That facility was one of five that EPA used in determining the amount of cellulosic biofuel — 17 million gallons — that refiners are required to blend into the motor fuel supply under its proposed 2014 Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) issued in November.

Grain reserve official expects 13% increase in China's soybean imports for 2013-14... China's imports of soybeans are expected to total 66 MMT to 67 MMT for the 2013-14 marketing year that ends in August, according a top official at Shinograin Oils Corporation, the nation's state-owned grain reserve company. This would be a 13% increase from last year. This forecast already takes into account possible cargo cancellations and the possibility of weakness in domestic soymeal demand, the official detailed. He also said he did not anticipate a large number of cargo cancellations this year and said that the increase in soybean import needs was driven by growth in China's crushing capacity.

Big drop in China's imports of U.S. corn noted for February... China imported 205,7776 MT of corn from the U.S. in February, which was down 67.9% from the month prior, according to official customs data. The decline was attributed to the nation's rejection of U.S. corn shipments due to the presence of an unapproved GMO strain (MIR 162 -- Syngenta's Viptera corn). The nation's imports from Ukraine, on the other hand, jumped 21.74% to 192,374 MT in February.

Backlog of ships at Rosario port nears 100 vessels... Yesterday afternoon, Reuters reported the backlog due to the grounded ship at Argentina's main Rosario port reached 90 grain cargo ships, but the manager of the port indicated he hoped the ship would be pulled free in the next several hours. The ship ran aground nearly two weeks ago and lightening the vessel so that it could be freed took much longer than anticipated.

PEDV reportings continue to climb... The National Animal Health Laboratory Network (NAHLN) says 296 new cases of porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDV) were confirmed in its latest update, bringing the grand total to 4,757, which reflects a minor revision from the previous week's tally. PEDV has been confirmed in 27 states, which is unchanged from the previous week. Iowa, the No. 1 pork-producing state in the nation, continues to lead the number of total confirmed cases at 1,592, up 71 from the week prior. Minnesota follows with 753 confirmed cases, up 52 from last week and North Carolina is third of the list at 502 cases, up 16 from last week.

Russia to accept U.S. pork imports from two Smithfield Foods firms... Russia will permit U.S. pork imports from two firms of Smithfield Foods Inc., a Chinese-owned producer, and four cold storage facilities following the receipt of additional guarantees, Russia's veterinary and phytosanitary service (VPSS) announced via its website. The 179 other firms that produce and store U.S. pork are still not allowed to ship pork to Russia. Russia banned most imports from the U.S. more than a year ago due to concerns about the use of the feed additive ractopamine, but it recently indicated it would resume imports of U.S. pork around March 10. The nation later said it needed more guarantees on food safety from U.S. pork packing plants.

Poland to file protest with EU regarding Austrian and Danish pork sales to Russia... Poland's ag minister says the country will file a complaint with the European Union regarding pork sales by Austria and Denmark to Russia, despite the nation's ban on EU pork. Russia issued this ban following the discovery of African Swine Fever in pork from Lithuania and Poland at the start of this year. This follows news earlier this week that the EU may challenge Russia' pork ban via the World Trade Organization.

Placements to set the tone in Cattle on Feed Report... Placements are once again expected to be the wildcard in today's Cattle on Feed Report, as there is 16-point spread on the range of pre-report guesses (102.2% to 118.2%). Pre-report expectations are for USDA to peg On Feed at 98.9% of year-ago levels, Placements at 109.7% and Marketings at 97.0% of year-ago figures.

Cold Storage Report also on tap... Traders are also readying for USDA's update on beef and pork stocks in U.S. freezers as of Feb. 28. Last month's Cold Storage Report reflected surprisingly low frozen beef stocks of 429.304 million lbs., which was well below the year prior. Frozen pork stocks in storage at the end of January, on the other hand, came in heavier than expected at 623.714 million pounds due to heavy hog weights.

Higher cash cattle trade draws key bearish reversals?... Live cattle futures posted key bearish reversals yesterday as profit-taking and fund liquidation followed futures' rally to contract highs. This overshadowed the start of cash cattle trade at $2 higher prices of $150 in Texas and Kansas. Key today will be if the market sees followthrough selling (which would confirm a short-term top) or if traders return with an eye toward narrowing the wide gap nearby contracts hold to the cash market.

Watch for a top continues in hogs... Despite a pullback in some contracts yesterday, most spring and summer month lean hog contracts are still working on weekly gains. But with the pork rally showing some signs of sputtering and technicals signaling the market remains overbought, a downside correction is possible at any time. Yesterday, the pork cutout value did move to yet another all-time high of $130.23 per cwt., but this again slowed movement.

Overnight demand news... There is no export business to report.

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