Observations from the 2018 Ag Commodity Futures Conf, Overland Park, KS, April 5-6 – No Consensus on Fixing Arbitrage to Cause Grain Price Convergence

The 2018 Agricultural Commodity Futures Conference was held in Overland Park, Kansas on April 5-6, 2018.  This meeting was sponsored by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the Center for Risk Management Education and Research in the Kansas State University Department of Agricultural Economics.

The agenda for this conference and an number presentations are available at the following web location:

http://www.k-state.edu/riskmanagement/conference.html

Following is the first of two articles by KSU Agricultural Economics Art Barnaby and Daniel O’Brien discussing the findings of the conference – with a particular focus on the functions, efficiency, and performance of grain cash and futures markets.  This article is also available at the following web address on the KSU AgManager.info website:

http://www.agmanager.info/fixing-arbitrage-cause-convergence-no-consensus

Fixing Arbitrage to Cause Convergence; No Consensus

Prepared by

G. A. (Art) Barnaby, Jr. (barnaby@ksu.edu) , Professor, Dept. of Agricultural Economics

Daniel O’Brien (dobrien@ksu.edu), Extension Agricultural Economist

K-State Research and Extension, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS 66506

April 16, 2018.

Summary

Kansas State University and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) recently held a joint conference on the lack of convergence in grain futures and many other futures trading issues.  Convergence is required for COOPs, grain elevator hedges, farmer hedges and crop insurance claims to work properly.  Without convergence, there is no connection between futures and cash markets, and grain future markets are not likely to survive in the long run without a reliable basis relationship with local cash prices.  Futures are not trading grain; they are trading the value of a shipping certificate that is received by the long when delivery occurs.  Non-convergence occurs when there is no credible threat of delivery.  Shipping certificate receivers have the right to store the grain and pay the storage indefinitely, currently 5 cents/month for corn and soybeans.  They also have the right to pick the date to load the grain out on a train/barge. 

Most grain industry traders don’t favor the Variable Storage Rate (VSR) mechanism now used on Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) Wheat futures contracts, and it appears there is little chance that VSR will be applied to corn and soybeans.  Other options for defining storage obligations in the CME wheat futures contracts included: 1) returning to a fixed storage rate; 2) fixed storage at a higher rate; 3) a seasonally adjusted storage rate; 4) a computer model estimated implied market “value of storage” with a committee adjusting the storage rate; 5) expanding the number of entities who can make delivery; and 6) a change to a no-storage futures contract.  Most participants at this conference were opposed to cash settlement and required load out of grain futures. 

Indexed funds, computerized trading, “Spoofing”, livestock contracts, etc. were also covered at this conference, but not included in this summary.  Papers and power point slides from the conference are located at:

http://www.k-state.edu/riskmanagement/conference.html

Issue #1: CME Algorithm

CME has eliminated pit trading in favor of computerized matching of buy-sell orders.  Surprising, it is not the oldest futures contract bid that is filled first.  To the surprise of many participants, CME has an algorithm that determines which contracts are filled first.  There was one very upset participant that stated his order was not filled, even though his bid was higher than CME’s posted close.  His question was how was that possible?  Answer, that is how the algorithm works[ii].  Some participants questioned the “equity” and “fairness” of a CME algorithm determined queue order for filling contracts.  (See note at end of article on how the CME Algorithm functions)

Issue #2: Variable Storage Rate (VSR) Mechanism for CME Wheat & KS HRW Wheat Futures

As expected the Variable Storage Rate (VSR) generated a lot of discussion. There were a number of grain traders who made it very clear they don’t like VSR.  The argument is VSR leaves the long guessing what the storage cost will be, resulting in reduced liquidity in the deferred contracts. 

Dr. Scott Irwin, University of Illinois, made the case that non-convergence was caused by the futures stated storage rate being set below the market value for storage.  Multi-national grain elevators with delivery rights don’t deliver grain, they deliver a shipping certificate that only they can create.  In addition to delivery, these certificates are sold in a secondary market, but they will sell at a price that is higher or equal to the non-convergence.  If one could buy shipping certificates and gain by arbitraging the futures, then the arbitrage profit would be bid to zero almost immediately.

Dr. Irwin, as the acknowledged primary developer of the VSR, surprised many participants when he didn’t strongly defend it.  He spent most of his presentation talking about non-convergence in the corn market, rather than the wheat market.  He appeared to be more supportive of using the results from a mathematical model’s estimated “market” value of storage, and then a designating committee to determine whether to make any adjustments to the storage rate. If the CME wants to use a different model to adjust the storage rate and the math is made public, then one would expect that to work too.  However, if there is a committee that makes the final decision, then it adds another level of uncertainty; will they act or just go with the status quo?  This committee would likely add a whole new round of controversies about trading futures.

He also suggested that a seasonal storage rate might work for corn.  If one remembers after the first round of non-convergence in KC wheat in the early 2000’s, the exchange added a protein requirement for the first time and a seasonal storage rate.   However, those changes didn’t prevent the most recent round of non-convergence in HRW wheat.  Apparently indicating the higher seasonal rates applied at that time were not sufficient to bring about convergence in the HRW wheat futures contract.

Issue #3: No Storage Grain Futures Contracts

One participant argued for no-storage futures contracts.  Without a storage requirement, it would allow more entities to make delivery and arbitrage futures contract.  Alternatively, CME argues there is only one new crop supply provided each year (two, if you count Brazil) therefore, futures must include storage so that a market mechanism exists to reflect grain prices and grain storage costs.  Those supporting a “no-storage futures contract” counter that clearly someone will store grain, regardless of the futures contract.  They state that there are plenty of farmers who are willing to store grain and most of that grain is unpriced.  They indicate that markets will need to provide a return to storage, even with a no-storage futures contract, but that may require higher deferred prices.

Issue #4: Including Farmer Storage In Delivery of Grain Futures Contracts

Another participant suggested CME should allow farmers to store the grain at the futures storage rate, when delivery elevators don’t want to store grain.  The storage would need to be certified by USDA, utilizing local Farm Service Agency (FSA) offices would likely be certification of choice.  There would also be questions in the case of farm bankruptcies, whether the long still owns the grain the buyer has paid for plus the storage?  For this delivery alternative to be workable, there would need to be rules and procedures developed on how the grain would be moved from farm storage to load out on a train/barge. 

One of the grain merchandizers attending suggested that farmers should have their futures orders filled first.  As explained above, CME’s algorithm determines order that contracts are filled, and that the mechanism used by the CME within that algorithm is not transparent to the public in general or to farmers with futures positions in particular.

Conclusions

There was still no agreement on what the true cash price is for wheat, but at least everyone agreed there was non-convergence in wheat markets.  One participant wanted the protein requirement in the futures contract raised from 10.5% to 11%.  Currently, the Kansas HRW wheat futures contract does require 11% protein, but will accept 10.5% protein with a $0.10 per bushel discount.  It was surprising that many conference participants essentially considered the Kansas HRW wheat futures contract protein requirement to be the discounted 10.5% protein level rather than the 11% par value as stated in the contract.

One key takeaway from this conference was that nearly all of agriculture agrees that convergence is necessary for short hedges and crop insurance to work.  Proposed fixes include VSR, a model determined storage rate with a committee to make the final decision on storage rate changes, fixed storage at a higher rate, a seasonal adjusted fixed storage rate, and no-storage futures contracts.  However, there was no consensus on what if any changes to make to futures to cause convergence.  Among these participants, there was little support for strictly requiring “forced” load-out or cash settlement of grain contracts. They did agree that if there is no connection between futures and cash, then the grain futures are unlikely to survive. 

Lack of convergence also effects crop insurance as tool to cover a farmer’s short hedge.  Crop insurance coverage combined with CME hedging tools will be covered in the next AgManager update.

An Additional Note on How the CME Matching Algorithm Works

A grain trader provided us with the following response on how the CME order matching algorithm works.

“Almost all of the CME ag contracts are matched using tag 1142 (Match Algorithm Value) = “K” (“Algorithm K”). CME generically defines Algorithm K as a “split FIFO/pro-rata algorithm.” However, there are multiple rounds of allocation under Algorithm K:

  • Round 1: Top-Order Allocation: A top order allocation is given to the first incoming order that betters the market and is filled at a 100% between a minimum of 1 lot and a maximum of 100 lots (note the maximum for KC wheat contracts is 50 lots).
  • Round 2: Lead Market Maker Allocation: CME makes various vague statements about there being the possibility of a “lead market maker allocation” after the top order allocation. None of the CME’s published materials confirm whether there is a lead market maker allocation for the ag contracts and, if so, how big is that allocation?
  • Round 3: FIFO Allocation: 40% of the volume after the top-order and LMM allocations is allocated via FIFO.
  • Round 4: Pro-Rata Allocation: 60% of the volume after the top-order and LMM allocations is allocated via pro-rata, with order size and time being the variables for allocation.
  • Round 5: Top-Leveling Allocation: Any participant that did not receive an allocation via pro-rata allocation receives a 1-lot allocation, if volume remains.
  • Round 6: FIFO Allocation: Any volume remaining after top-leveling allocation is allocated via FIFO.”

 

Advertisements

U.S. Ethanol and Biodiesel Market-Profitability Graphics: Through Late-March 2018

Following are some graphics on U.S. Ethanol and Biodiesel Market price and profitability trends in the , which will soon be available on the KSU AgManager website:  http://www.agmanager.info/

The full presentation titled “U.S. Ethanol & Biodiesel Market Situation” made for WILL (Illinois Public Radio) on Tuesday, March 27th and will be located at the KSU AgManager.info website – at the following web address:

http://www.agmanager.info/grain-marketing/grain-market-outlook-newsletter

 

Following are the graphics of this presentation.

 

 

KSU Corn Market Outlook in March 2018: Weighing U.S. Corn Market Prospects through Fall 2018

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:

http://www.agmanager.info/grain-marketing/grain-market-outlook-newsletter

Following is a summary of the article on “Corn Market Outlook in March 2018″

**************

Summary

1. Overview

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.

********

 

2018 Soybean Market Situation & Outlook – Salina, KS on January 23, 2018

Following are the slides from a presentation on “Soybean Market Outlook in 2018” presented to 150 people at a “Kansas Soybean School” in Salina, Kansas held on January 23, 2018.   The workshop was sponsored by the Kansas Soybean Commission (http://kansassoybeans.org/) and K-State Research and Extension.

Following are the slides and key points presented by Extension Agricultural Economist Daniel O’Brien of the Department of Agricultural Economics at Kansas State University titled “Soybean Market Outlook in 2018“.  This presentation is available on the KSU AgManager.info website (http://www.agmanager.info/) at the following web address:

http://www.agmanager.info/grain-marketing/presentations

 

 

Corn and Grain Sorghum Market Situation & Outlook – Amarillo, Texas on January 24, 2018

Following are the slides from a presentation on “Feedgrain Market Outlook in 2018” presented by teleconference to a “Feedgrain Marketing Plan Workshop” in Amarillo, Texas held on January 23-24, 2018.   The workshop was sponsored by Texas Agri-Life Extension.

Following are the slides and key points presented by Extension Agricultural Economist Daniel O’Brien of the Department of Agricultural Economics at Kansas State University titled on “Feedgrain Market Outlook in 2018”.  This presentation will also be available on the KSU AgManager.info website (http://www.agmanager.info/) at the following web address:

http://www.agmanager.info/grain-marketing/presentations

 

 

KSU Corn Market Outlook in December 2017: Prospects for “New Crop” MY 2017/18 and “Next Crop” MY 2018/19

An analysis of U.S. and World Corn supply-demand & price prospects for the “New Crop” 2017/18 and “Next Crop” 2018/19 Marketing Years are provided in the following article summary.  This information follows the USDA Crop Production and World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) reports on December 12, 2017.

A full version of this article is available on the KSU AgManager website http://www.agmanager.info/ at the following web address:

http://www.agmanager.info/grain-marketing/grain-market-outlook-newsletter

Following is a summary of the article on “Corn Market Outlook in December 2017″

**************

Summary

A. Corn Market Overview

Since the USDA’s December 12th Crop Production and World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) reports, MARCH 2018 CME corn futures prices have traded higher and lower in a mixed manner.  Longer term – MARCH 2018 Corn futures have been trending lower – closing at $3.49 ¼ on December 20th.   In its’ December 12th USDA Crop Production report, the USDA maintained its projection from November of 2017 U.S. corn yields to average a record high 175.4 bu/ac, with 2017 U.S. corn production at 14.578 billion bushels (bb) – both up substantially from trade expectations during the summer of 2017.

Since both the November 9th and December 12th USDA reports, market expectations have reinforced a consensus consistent with the USDA projection of a “large supply – low price” scenario, leaving DEC 2017 corn futures (now expired) to trade in the range of $3.35 ¼ – $3.47 per bushel during the November 10th through December 14th late- harvest period.  The USDA will provide updated 2017 U.S. corn production numbers in its upcoming January 12, 2018 USDA Crop Production report.

It continues to be true that any significant corn futures or cash market price rallies through winter 2017-2018 on into early Spring 2018 are likely to be limited by ending stocks of U.S. corn in the 2.350-2.500 billion bushels (bb) range, coupled with ending stocks-to-use of 16.0%-17.5% for the 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 “next crop” MY 2018/19.  And that risk again is likely to provide both old crop and new crop 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 “new crop” 2017/18 marketing year.   If this occurs, it would lead to larger U.S. corn export shipments in early 2018 than are currently happening, and support higher U.S. corn prices in Spring-Summer 2018 than are represented by 2018 Corn futures contracts.

B. Kansas Cash Corn Prices & Basis Bids

In Western Kansas on Wednesday, December 20th cash corn bids at major grain elevators ranged from $2.96 ($0.53 under MARCH futures) to $3.37 ($0.12 under), and ranged from $3.01 ½ ($0.48 under) to $3.24 ¼ ($0.25 under) in Central Kansas.  Even though Kansas corn prices have remained low in recent weeks, these prices still are still mostly 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 $3.24 ¼ – $3.31 ¼ on December 20th, nearly equal to the range of $3.26-$3.28 per bushel on 12/23/2016.  Cash corn bids at Kansas ethanol plants on December 20th ranged from $3.27 ½ ($0.20 under MARCH) to $3.74 ½ ($0.27 over MARCH) – indicating continuing strength in ethanol demand for corn in Kansas and nationwide.

C. Major Corn Market Considerations for Winter-Spring 2018

First, the corn market is likely to be only moderately responsive to any early season 2018 U.S. corn production threats since beginning stocks for “new crop” MY 2017/18 have been projected to be near 2.295 bb rather than 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 supplies will continue to 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 is projecting at least “moderate” continued strength in U.S. corn exports of 1.925 bb for “new crop” MY 2017/18.  United States’ corn export shipments have been “slow” to date in the current marketing year.  However, the USDA maintains its optimism for “new crop” MY 2017/18 U.S. corn exports because of a) low U.S. corn prices,  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 early 2018.

Early forecasts are for 2018 Brazilian corn production to be 95 million metric tons (mmt) in this marketing year with harvests lasting from February through May.  Early forecasts are for 2018 Argentina corn production to be 42 mmt in this marketing year with harvests lasting from March through May.  However, dry conditions may limit 2018 corn production in Argentina and southern Brazil – and subsequently support U.S. corn exports.

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.

D. USDA Supply-Demand & Price Forecast for “New Crop” MY 2017/18

In the December 12th Crop Production reports, the USDA left unchanged its projections of a) projected yields up to a record high of 175.4 bu/ac (vs the previous record of 174.6 in 2016), and b) 2017 U.S. corn production up to 14.578 bb – down from the record high of 15.148 bb in 2016.  The also USDA left unchanged its forecast “new crop” MY 2017/18 total supplies to 16.922 bb – down marginally (20 mb) from last year’s record high.  Total use is forecast at 14.485 bb – raised 50 mb from November on higher ethanol use, but still down 162 mb from last year’s record high.  Ending stocks are projected to be a 2.437 bb (16.8% S/U) – up from 2.295 bb (15.7% S/U) in “old crop” MY 2016/17.  United States’ corn prices are projected to average $3.20 /bu (range of $2.85-$3.55).  This is down $0.16 /bu from $3.36 /bu from “old crop” MY 2016/17. This scenario is given an 80% likelihood of occurring by KSU Extension Agricultural Economist D. O’Brien.

E. Alternative KSU Supply-Demand & Price Forecast for “New Crop” MY 2017/18

Two alternative KSU-Scenarios for U.S. corn supply-demand and prices are presented for “new crop” MY 2017/18.  These projections are to show how varying corn export outcomes could affect the USDA’s projection in the December 9, 2017 WASDE report. 

#1 – KSU “Higher Exports” MY 2017/18 Scenario: “2.250 bb Exports” Scenario (10% probability) assumes: 90.348 ma planted, 82.890 ma harvested, 175.4 bu/ac trend yield, 14.539 bb production, 16.884 bb total supplies, 2.250 bb exports, 14.785 bb total use, 2.099 bb ending stocks, 14.20% S/U, & $3.55 /bu U.S. corn average price; 

#2 – KSU “Lower Exports” MY 2017/18 Scenario: “1.800 bb Exports” Scenario (10% probability) assumes: 90.348 ma planted, 82.890 ma harvested, 175.4 bu/ac trend yield, 14.539 bb production, 16.884 bb total supplies, 1.800 bb exports, 14.360 bb total use, 2.524 bb ending stocks, 17.58% S/U, & $3.20 /bu U.S. corn average price;

F. USDA Supply-Demand & Price Forecast for “Next Crop” MY 2018/19

In the November 28th Long Term Baseline projections, the USDA forecast for “next crop” MY 2018/19 that  2018 U.S. corn planted and harvested acres would equal 91.0 million acres (ma) and 83.7 ma, respectively, both up from 90.429 ma planted and 83.119 ma harvested in 2017.  Corn yields in 2018 are forecast at 173.5 bu/ac, down from the record high of 175.4 bu/ac in 2017.  U.S. corn production is 2018 is projected to be 14.520 bb – down from 14.578 bb now projected for 2017.  

The USDA forecast “new crop” MY 2017/18 total supplies to 17.007 bb – adjusted for changes in the December WASDE report in MY 2017/18 ending stocks.  Total use is forecast at 14.450 bb – down 35 mb from this current marketing year.  Ending stocks are projected to be a 2.557 bb (17.7% S/U) – up from 2.437 bb (16.8% S/U) in “new crop” MY 2017/18.  United States’ corn prices are projected to average $3.30 /bu – up from $3.20 /bu in “new crop” MY 2017/18.

G. World Corn Supply-Demand – With & Without China

World corn production of 1,044.8 million metric tons (mmt) is projected for “new crop” MY 2017/18, down 2.9% from the record of 1,074.8 mmt in “old crop” MY 2016/17, but still up 7.3% from 973.5 mmt in MY 2015/16.  World corn total supplies of 1,272.1 mmt are down marginally from the record high 1,290.5 mmt in “old crop” MY 2016/17, but up from 1,183.2 mmt in MY 2015/16. 

World corn exports of a 151.6 mmt are projected for “new crop” MY 2017/18, down 7.6% from the record high of 164.1 mmt in “old crop” MY 2016/17, and up 26.7% from 119.7 mmt in MY 2015/16.  Projected World corn ending stocks of 204.1 mmt (19.1% S/U) in “new crop” MY 2017/18 are down from the record high 227.3 mmt (21.4% S/U) in “old crop” MY 2016/17, and from 214.9 mmt (22.2% S/U) in MY 2015/16.  Projected Foreign (Non-U.S.) corn ending stocks of 142.2 mmt (16.5% S/U) in “new crop” MY 2017/18 are down from 169.0 mmt (19.8% S/U) in “old crop” MY 2016/17, and from 170.8 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 124.5 mmt (15.0% S/U) in “new crop” MY 2017/18, down from 126.6 mmt (15.2% S/U) in “old crop” MY 2016/17, but up from 104.1 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 21% lower (i.e., 15.0% S/U for the “World-Less-China” versus 19.1% S/U for the “World” overall in “new 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 44.3% in “old crop” MY 2016/17, and down to 39.0% in “new 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 increase Chinese import demand for both U.S. corn and grain sorghum.

*****

KSU Ag Econ “Corn & Grain Sorghum Market Outlook for 2018” Presentation

Following is a presentation on “Corn & Grain Sorghum Market Outlook for 2018”.  This information was given as part of a larger “Grain Market Outlook for 2018” presentation given by Kansas State University Extension Agricultural Economist Daniel O’Brien at a Farming for the Future meeting in Pratt, Kansas on December 14, 2017.

Additional Farming for the Future conferences in Kansas are planned for December 19th in Salina, January 10th in Scott City, and January 11th in Emporia.  Registration information can be found at the following web address:

http://www.agmanager.info/events/farming-future

****

The full “Grain Market Outlook for 2018” presentation is available online at the KSU AgManager website at the following web address:

http://www.agmanager.info/sites/default/files/pdf/AGEC520_GrainOutlook_10-19-17.pdf

Information on Wheat, Soybean & Cotton supply-demand and market outlook will be provided in succeeding posts.

Following is information on “Corn and Grain Sorghum Market Outlook for 2018”: