An analysis of U.S. & World Corn supply-demand factors and price prospects through the “new crop” 2018/19 marketing year from Kansas State University is provided in the following article summary. This information follows the USDA World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) reports on March 8, 2017 and the Grains & Oilseeds Market Outlook given at the USDA Outlook Forum on February 23, 2018 in Arlington, Virginia.
A full version of this article is available on the KSU AgManager website http://www.agmanager.info/ at the following web address:
Following is a summary of the article on “Corn Market Outlook in March 2018″
Since the USDA’s March 8th Crop Production and World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) reports, MAY 2018 CME corn futures prices have traded mostly sideways in a mixed manner. Longer term – MAY 2018 Corn futures have been trending sharply higher – from a low of $3.53 ¾ on January 12, 2018 to a close of $3.86 ¾ on March 15th.
Since both the January 12th USDA Annual Crop Summary and WASDE reports, dry conditions in Argentina and southern Brazil, and concerns about dry conditions in the U.S. western Corn Belt have supported corn market prices. Although the World corn market is still in a “large supply – low price” situation, prospects for lower 2018 South American corn supplies and export competition for the U.S. have provided support for corn market prices, and provided selling opportunities for both “old crop” 2017 and “new crop” 2018 U.S. corn production.
Even with these concerns about 2018 South American corn supply prospects, it continues to be true that any significant corn futures or cash market price rallies through Spring-early Summer 2018 are likely to be limited by ending stocks of U.S. corn in the 2.000-2.250 billion bushel (bb) range. This is coupled with ending stocks-to-use of 14.0%-15.0% for the “old crop” 2017/18 marketing year. However, in Spring-early Summer 2018 the U.S. corn market is likely again to have to weigh the annual risk of weather-limiting 2018 U.S. corn production prospects (i.e., the possibility of 2018 U.S. corn production less than 13.500 bb??) and tighter ending stocks (less than 1.500 bb??) in “new crop” MY 2018/19. And that risk again is likely to further provide both “old crop” 2017 and “new crop” 2018 pricing opportunities in Spring-Summer 2018.
One positive long-term factor in the U.S. corn market is the considerable “tightening up” that is forecast for foreign (non-U.S.) corn supply-demand balances in the “old crop” 2017/18 marketing year. If this occurs, it would lead to larger U.S. corn export shipments in spring-early summer 2018 than are currently happening, and support even higher U.S. corn prices in Spring-Summer 2018 than are represented by MAY 2018 through DEC 2018 Corn futures contracts.
2. Kansas Cash Corn Prices & Basis Bids
In Western Kansas on Wednesday, March 15th cash corn bids at major grain elevators ranged from $3.32 ($0.55 under MAY 2018 futures) to $3.74 ($0.13 under), and ranged from $3.43 ¾ ($0.43 under) to $3.61 ¾ ($0.25 under) in Central Kansas. These prices still are still much higher than a year ago when bids statewide had fallen to $2.66-$2.96 on December 23, 2016. These prices were still above marketing loan rates for corn across the state, with corn loans near $2.05 in Central Kansas and $2.19 per bushel in Western Kansas.
Cash corn price bids in East Central and Northeast Kansas at major terminal locations were $3.65 ¾ – $3.70 ¾ on March 15th, up from the range of $3.26-$3.28 per bushel on 12/23/2016. Cash corn bids at Kansas ethanol plants on March 15th ranged from $3.73 ¾ ($0.15 under MAY) to $4.13 ¾ ($0.25 over MAY) – indicating continuing strength in ethanol demand for corn in Kansas and nationwide.
3. Major Corn Market Considerations for Winter-Spring 2018
First, although the corn market is likely to be responsive to any early season 2018 U.S. corn production threats, the anticipation of large beginning stocks of 2.000-2.100 bb for “new crop” MY 2018/19 will likely “mitigate” of “soften” the immediate price response of the market – more-so than if beginning stocks were down to 1.250-1.500 bb. If no significant production risk emerges in summer 2018, then these large “old crop” MY 2017/18 carryover ending stocks will limit 2018 corn crop forward pricing prospects.
Second, low prices for U.S. corn will help maintain strong usage for domestic U.S. ethanol and wet milling production, as well as livestock feeding through at least spring 2018 if not into the summer months.
Third, the USDA has so far projecting at least “moderate” continued strength in U.S. corn exports of 1.900 bb for “new crop” MY 2017/18 – with this number likely increasing IF South American corn production prospects continue to suffer. United States’ corn export shipments had been “slow” to date in the current marketing year, but have increased markedly in recent weeks. The USDA maintains its optimism for “new crop” MY 2018/19 U.S. corn exports because of a) low U.S. corn prices to date, b) expectations of significantly tighter foreign stocks and percent (%) stocks-to-use for corn, and c) the eventual “using up” of competing South American corn exports in spring 2018.
Current forecasts are for 2018 Brazilian corn production to be 94.5 million metric tons (mmt) in this marketing year – versus 98.5 mmt last year – with harvests lasting from February through May. However, forecasts are for 2018 Argentina corn production to be 36.0 mmt in this marketing year – versus 41.0 mmt a year ago – with harvests lasting from March through May. The Argentina production figure is at risk to falling further. To the degree that 2018 corn production in Argentina and southern Brazil is limited by crop weather issues, there will likely be subsequent support U.S. corn export prospects.
Fourth, a continuing threat exists of U.S. and Foreign economic and/or financial system disruptions that could impact grain, energy, and other commodity markets in 2018. World geo-political events could provide “shocks” to U.S. and World energy and grain markets which could in turn impact grain prices in either direction depending on the circumstances, the countries involved, and their role in global corn export trade.
4. USDA Supply-Demand & Price Forecasts
In the March 8th WASDE report, the USDA left unchanged its projections of a) 2017 U.S. corn production of 14.604 bb – down from the record high of 15.148 bb in 2016, and b) “old crop” MY 2017/18 total supplies of 16.947 bb – up marginally from a year earlier. Total use is forecast at 14.820 bb – raised 225 mb from the February WASDE on prospects for a) higher ethanol use of 5.575 bb (raised 50 mb), and b) higher exports of 2.225 bb (raised 175 mb). Ending stocks are projected to be a 2.127 bb (14.35% Stocks/Use) – down 225 mb from February, and down from 2.293 bb (15.65% S/U) in MY 2016/17. United States’ corn prices are projected to average $3.35 /bu (range of $3.15-$3.55). This is down $0.01 /bu from $3.36 /bu from MY 2016/17.
At the Agricultural Outlook Forum in Arlington, Virginia on February 23, 2018, the USDA forecast that a) 2018 U.S. corn production would be 14.390 bb – based on 90.0 million acres (ma) planted, 82.7 ma harvested, and a yield of 174.0 bu. Total use is forecast at 14.520 bb – with projections of ethanol use at 5.650 bb (a record high), non-ethanol food seed and industrial use at 1.495 bb (also a record high), exports of 1.900 bb (down 325 mb from the current marketing year), and feed and residual use of 5.475 mb (down 75 mb from this year). After a KSU-adjustment for lower beginning stocks based on the March 8th WASDE report, ending stocks are projected to be a 2.047 bb (14.10% Stocks/Use) – with both being down moderately from “old crop” MY 2017/18 levels. United States’ corn prices are projected to average a KSU-adjusted $3.45 /bu (up $0.05-$0.10 from this year). It is probable that the export projection for “new crop” MY 2018/19 may be raised in coming months due to South American production problems – causing these ending stocks and % stocks-to-use estimates to tighten further. This scenario is given a 50% likelihood of occurring by KSU Extension Agricultural Economist D. O’Brien.
5. Alternative KSU Supply-Demand & Price Forecast for “New Crop” MY 2018/19
Two alternative KSU-Scenarios for U.S. corn supply-demand and prices are presented for “new crop” MY 2018/19. These projections are to show how varying 2018 U.S. corn production outcomes could affect U.S. corn supply-demand and price outcomes in “new crop” MY 2018/19.
A – KSU “Higher 2018 U.S. Corn Production” Scenario for “new crop” MY 2018/19: (25% probability): Assumptions are as follows: 90.000 ma planted, 82.700 ma harvested, 176.6 bu/ac record yield (equal to 2017 record high), 14.605 bb production, 16.782 bb total supplies, 14.600 bb total use, 2.182 bb ending stocks, 14.95% S/U, & $3.30 /bu U.S. corn average price;
B – KSU “Lower 2018 U.S. Corn Production” Scenario for “new crop” MY 2018/19: (25% probability): Assumptions are as follows: 90.000 ma planted, 82.700 ma harvested, 164.4 bu/ac yield (equal to 2009 yield), 13.596 bb production, 15.773 bb total supplies, 14.315 bb total use, 1.458 bb ending stocks, 10.19% S/U, & $4.20 /bu U.S. corn average price;
6. World Corn Supply-Demand – With & Without China
World corn production of 1,041.7 million metric tons (mmt) is projected for “old crop” MY 2017/18, down 3.1% from the record of 1,075.2 mmt in MY 2016/17, but still up 7.0% from 973.45 mmt in MY 2015/16. World corn total supplies of 1,273.6 mmt in “old crop” MY 2017/18 are forecast to be down moderately from the record high 1,290.2 mmt in MY 2016/17, but up from 1,183.2 mmt in MY 2015/16.
World corn exports of a 155.9 mmt are projected for “old crop” MY 2017/18, down 2.4% from the record high of 159.8 mmt in MY 2016/17, and up 30.2% from 119.7 mmt in MY 2015/16. Projected World corn ending stocks of 199.2 mmt (18.5% S/U) in “old crop” MY 2017/18 are down from the record high 231.9 mmt (21.9% S/U) in MY 2016/17, and from 215.0 mmt (22.2% S/U) in MY 2015/16. Projected Foreign (Non-U.S.) corn ending stocks of 145.1 mmt (17.0% S/U) in “old crop” MY 2017/18 are down from 173.6 mmt (21.9% S/U) in MY 2016/17, and from 170.9 mmt (23.1% S/U) in MY 2015/16.
An alternative view of the World corn supply-demand is presented if Chinese corn usage and ending stocks are isolated from the World market. “World-Less-China” corn ending stocks are projected to be 119.6 mmt (14.35% S/U) in “old crop” MY 2017/18, down from 131.1 mmt (15.9% S/U) in MY 2016/17, but up from 104.2 mmt (13.9% S/U) in MY 2015/16. These figures show that World stocks-to-use of corn less China’s direct influence are projected to be approximately 22% lower (i.e., 14.35% S/U for the “World-Less-China” versus 18.5% S/U for the “World” overall in “old crop” MY 2017/18).
At the same time, these figures also show that Chinese ending stocks of corn as proportion of the World total are declining – down from 51.5% in MY 2015/16, to 43.4% in MY 2016/17, and down to 39.9% in “old crop” MY 2017/18. The deliberate actions in recent years – taken by the Chinese government to reduce feedgrain stockpiles – is impacting the relative amount of World total corn stocks they hold. These actions may eventual increase Chinese import demand for U.S. corn and grain sorghum.