U.S. grains: Corn eases on profit-taking

Traders question USDA numbers, raising uncertainty

CBOT December 2020 corn with Bollinger (20,2) bands. (Barchart)

Chicago | Reuters — Chicago corn inched slightly lower on Friday, as traders questioned federal acreage data and assessed the extent of storm damage in the U.S. Midwest.

Prices slipped early in the day, after a rally in the previous session pushed corn futures to a four-week high. Soybeans also fell after jumping to a two-week high on Thursday, as brisk Chinese demand took attention away from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) outlook for a massive autumn harvest.

U.S. wheat surged on technical buying, traders said.

The most-active corn contract on the Chicago Board Of Trade (CBOT) closed down 0.22 per cent at $3.38 per bushel (all figures US$). CBOT soybeans settled at $8.98-3/4 per bushel, down 0.08 per cent, while CBOT wheat was up 0.65 per cent at $5 a bushel.

A derecho storm, with hurricane-like winds, hit the Midwest grain belt Monday, affecting as much as 14 million acres in Iowa, up from earlier estimates of 10 million acres, the Iowa Soybean Association posted on Facebook on Friday.

The week’s technical rally also was rooted over a bigger-than-normal gap between the planted acreage numbers released by USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), versus the latest planted acreage numbers farmers reported to USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA), traders said.

NASS reported farmers planted 10.9 million corn acres and 7.9 million soybean acres more than FSA, according to the data.

Discrepancies are common because of the timing of when USDA collects and analyzes the data, said Don Roose, president of U.S. Commodities in Iowa. This gap also could be for COVID-19 related reasons, such as delayed reporting and staffing issues at local USDA offices, he said.

“If it’s a million acres more, that’s normal. But some people think NASS’s numbers are just too high, even though the FSA numbers will be updated,” he said.

— P.J. Huffstutter reports on agriculture and agribusiness for Reuters from Chicago; additional reporting by Gus Trompiz in Paris and Naveen Thukral in Singapore.

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