First Thing Today (VIP) -- March 5, 2013

March 4, 2013 11:48 PM


GRAINS MILDLY FIRMER... As of 6:30 a.m. CT, corn futures are trading 2 to 3 cents higher in old-crop contracts and fractionally to 1 cent higher in new-crop contracts, soybeans are mostly 4 to 6 cents higher, Chicago wheat is steady to 1 cent higher, while Kansas City and Minneapolis wheat are fractionally to 2 cents higher in most contracts. The U.S. dollar index is under light pressure this morning.

CHINA RELEASES YEARLY PROJECTIONS... As part of its annual National People's Congress planning meeting, China released this year's economic and output projections. According to outgoing Premier Wen Jiabao, China aims to grow its economy at a 7.5% clip this year and to hold consumer price inflation around 3.5%. Wen also says China will have a 2013 fiscal deficit of 1.2 trillion yuan ($192.8 billion), or around 2% of GDP. For agriculture, Wen says grain production should top 500 MMT this year. China also plans to continue to stockpile corn, soybeans, rapeseed, cotton and sugar in an attempt to support domestic prices. And the Chinese government will continue to closely regulate hog prices.

ABARES UPDATES 2012-13 WHEAT CROP, ISSUES 2013-14 FORECAST... The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) inched up its 2012-13 Aussie wheat crop to 22.077 MMT from 22.035 MMT previously. For the 2013-14 marketing year, ABARES forecasts wheat production will rise 13% to 24.9 MMT amid an expected increase in plantings and improved yields. Despite the anticipated higher production, ABARES forecasts Aussie wheat exports will drop 5% to 21 MMT for 2013-14.

UKRAINE GRAIN PRODUCTION TO SHARPLY REBOUND... Ukraine should see grain output rise sharply to 53.135 MMT this year from last year's 46.2-MMT drought-reduced production, according to private consulting firm UkrAgroConsult. The firm forecasts wheat production will to rise to 20.96 MMT and the corn crop will increase to 21.1 MMT.

CME GROUP TO DETAIL CHANGE IN TRADING HOURS... Based on customer feedback and a formal survey of market participants, CME Group Inc. has decided to reduce trading hours for its grain and oilseed futures and options contracts. This will reverse the decision made last year to extend electronic trading hours from 17 to 21 hours each day. Details may come as soon as today, according to the Wall Street Journal. The exchange has been reviewing alternatives because there were varying opinions on what the reduced hours should be. Some signal that CME Group supports a market pause during the release of USDA reports. CME has said it would be willing to halt market trade during those releases, but only if the IntercontinentalExchange (ICE) does so as well. ICE has consistently said they have no plans to change their current trading hours, a position they have held since the reduced trading hour potential first surfaced more than a month ago. An ICE spokeswoman said Monday it has no plans to change its current format.

BOXED BEEF PRICES SURGE, BUT MOVEMENT VERY LIGHT... Boxed beef prices were $2.27 (Select) to $2.86 (Choice) higher Monday, although packers moved only 112 loads of product amid the sharply higher prices. Until boxed beef movement picks up, traders' concerns with beef demand won't fully be eased, but the stronger prices are helping improve packer margins, which should make them more willing to raise cash cattle bids.

PORK MARGINS CONTINUE TO FIRM... The pork cutout value firmed 62 cents Monday, though nearly all of the strength was in loins and packers moved only 33.08 loads of product on the day. Still, the higher pork cutout in combination with mostly steady cash hog bids yesterday means packer margins continue to strengthen and are deep in the black.

OVERNIGHT DEMAND NEWS... South Korea passed on the tender to buy up to 140,000 MT of corn. Dubai purchased 30,000 MT of Indian wheat. Japan is seeking 133,057 MT of wheat in its weekly tender.


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