Several factors continue to exert some influence on corn, soybeans and wheat prices, with a new factor grabbing the spotlight daily.Some developments have been positive for crop prices, some negative. As a result, pricescontinue to be very choppy.
Over the past month (April), November 2010 soybeanfutures have traded in a $0.65 range, December 2010 corn futures have variedby as much as $0.28, and July 2010 CBOT wheat futureshave beenin a $0.40 range. Thoseranges since March 1 have been much larger for Decembercorn ($0.48) and July wheat ($0.75).
Part of the fluctuation in croppriceshas been associated with fluctuation in the financial markets, which in turn reflect fluctuations in expectations about economic recoveryand the demand forcommodities. Excluding the extreme spike low of May 6, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has tradedin an800-pointrange over the past month. Domestic economic growth is underway, and more jobs than expected were created in April, butthe unemployment rate remains very high. Internationally, the financial collapse in Greece and growing concerns about Spain and Italyhad negative impacts on equity markets. However, the weekend announcement of a debt relief package for financial troubled European countrieswas greeted with a sharp rebound in these markets.
Currency values also have beenin play in the commodity markets to the extent that exchange rates are thought to influence commodity imports and exports. The U.S. dollarindex reached a recent low in December 2009 and increased by more than 10 percent into early May. The same debt relief package thatbrought strength to the equity markets resulted in a decline in the U.S. dollar index.
Crude-oiland gasoline prices, which have some direct impact on the value of bio-fuels, have also been in a wide range just in the past week. July2010 crude-oilfutures haveranged from just over $89 per barrel to just under $78 since the beginning of May. July 2010 RBOB gasolinefutures have rangedfrom about $2.44 per gallon to about $2.12 per gallon since the first of the month.
Commoditymarket developmentshave been mixed as well. As outlined, corn demand has been improving and that pattern continuedlastweek. Newexport sales for the week ended April 29 were reported at 72million bushels, the largest weekly figure of the year. New sales now need to average only about 13 million bushels per week through Augustin order for marketing-year exports to reach thecurrent USDA projection of 1.9 billion bushels. Weekly shipments, however, need to averagenearly 39 millionbushels per week to reach that projection. Soybean exports continue the seasonal decline, but weekly sales have exceeded those neededto reach USDA’s marketing year projection of 1.445 billion bushels. New sales need to average only about 2 million bushels per week and shipmentsabout 6 million per week through August to reach USDA'sprojection.
USDA’smonthly update of world supply and consumptionprospects to be released on May 11 will contain the first projectionsfor the 2010-2011marketing year. Projections for the domestic market are expected to contain forecasts of large corn and soybean crops, reflectingmore acreage than planted last year and early prospects for high yields. Early planting of the 2010 crop along with a relatively high trendyield calculation used by USDA should result in an especially highcorn yieldforecasts. Even with an increase in consumption of corn for ethanol production and for export during the year ahead, the forecast of year ending stockswill likely be larger than the level of beginningstocks. A large increase in soybean stocks may be forecast due to prospects for a largecrop and declining export demand. Even thoughwheat acreage is down sharply this year, the current crop condition ratings point to a relatively high yield of winter wheat.
With so many factors influencing prices, but without a single dominant factor, the recent pattern of volatilecrop prices is expected to continue. That is even before the most important part of the 2010 growing season for corn and soybeans arrives.