This article provides an analysis of U.S. and World corn supply-demand factors and price prospects for the “new crop” 2017/17 marketing year following the USDA’s October 12, 2017 USDA Crop Production and World Agricultural Supply Demand Estimates (WASDE) reports.
Following is a summary of the article on “Corn Market Outlook in Late-October 2017″ with the full article and accompanying analysis soon to be available on the KSU AgManager website (www.AgManager.info) at the following web address:
Since the USDA’s October 12th Crop Production and World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) reports, DEC 2017 CME corn futures prices have traded essentially sideways. DEC 2017 corn opened at $3.46 per bushel on Thursday, October 12th – then traded as low as $3.42 ½ that day before closing at $0.03 higher at $3.49. Since that day, DEC 2017 corn has traded in a range of $3.43 to $3.53, before closing at $3.50 ½ on October 25th.
Looking back, until the August 10th USDA reports U.S. corn prices had found support due to 1) spring corn planting difficulties, 2) summer corn production problems in select parts of the U.S. Corn Belt, and 3) strong U.S. corn use for ethanol production, wet corn milling, exports and – to a moderate degree – livestock feeding. DEC 2017 corn reached as high as $4.17 ¼ on July 11th. Then when the USDA’s August 10th projection of 2017 U.S. corn production came in approximately 300 million bushels (mb) higher than average pre-report trade estimates, corn futures prices declined from high of $3.89 on August 10th to a low of $3.44 ¼ on August 31st. After a high of $3.62 on September 6th, DEC 2017 corn futures have trended sideways-to-lower throughout the remainder of September and the majority of October.
Then, in the October 12th USDA Crop Production report, the USDA projected 2017 U.S. corn yields to average 171.8 bu/ac, actually up from average pre-report trade estimates of 170.1 bu/acre. As a result, the USDA projected 2017 U.S. corn production to be 14.280 billion bushels (bb) – up from pre-report trade expectations of 14.204 bb.
Since the October 12th USDA reports, market expectations have formed a consensus in line with the USDA projection of a “large supply – low price” scenario, leaving DEC 2017 corn futures to trade near $3.50 per bushel during the 2017 harvest period. The USDA will provide updated 2017 U.S. corn production numbers in its upcoming November 9, 2017, and early January 2018 USDA Crop Production reports.
Any significant corn futures or cash market price rallies through winter 2017-2018 on into early Spring 2018 are likely to continue to be limited by expectations of ending stocks of U.S. corn staying above 2.0 bb, coupled with ending stocks-to-use of 15.0%-16.0% for MY 2017/18. However, in Spring-early Summer 2018 the U.S. corn market is likely again to have to weigh the annual risk of weather-limited 2018 U.S. corn production prospects (less than 13.500 bb??) and tighter ending stocks (less than 1.250 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.
Kansas Cash Corn Prices & Basis Bids
In Western Kansas on Wednesday, October 25th cash corn bids at major grain elevators ranged from $2.96 ($0.55 under DEC futures) to $3.46 ($0.05 under DEC futures), and ranged from $3.01 ($0.50 under DEC) to $3.19 ($0.32 under DEC) in Central Kansas. Even though Kansas corn prices have remained low in recent weeks, these prices still are sharply higher than in Oct-Dec 2016 when bids statewide had fallen below $3.00 per bushel – down to $2.66-$2.96 on December 23rd. 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 $3.09 ¾ on October 25th, actually down from the range of $3.26-$3.28 per bushel on 12/23/2016. Cash corn bids at Kansas ethanol plants on October 25th ranged from $3.22 ¾ ($0.30 under DEC) to $3.72 ¾ ($0.20 over DEC) – indicating continuing strength in ethanol demand for corn in Kansas and nationwide. While the “large supply and tight storage availability” situation still predominates in local Kansas grain markets, it continues to be positive that Kansas cash corn prices have avoided falling down to USDA loan rate levels – especially in the midst of the 2017 Kansas corn harvest.
Major Corn Market Considerations for Fall 2017 through Spring 2018
First, large beginning stocks of U.S. corn coming into “new crop” MY 2017/18 have been a “mitigating” factor limiting the response of the corn market to 2017 summer-early fall production risks that occurred. The corn market has been less responsive to any 2017 U.S. corn production threats since beginning stocks for “new crop” MY 2017/18 have been projected to be near 2.340 bb rather than down to 1.000 bb. If this “large stocks situation” persists through summer 2018, this mitigating and limiting affect will likely hamper future 2018 corn crop forward pricing prospects as well.
Second, the grain market continues to anticipate that 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, at least “moderate” continued strength is expected in U.S. corn exports due to low U.S. corn prices and also to a moderate weakening of the U.S. dollar against other World currencies. Exports of U.S. corn are expected to continue at a “decent” pace of 1.850 bb for “new crop” MY 2017/18 even though South American corn production will continue to be a competitive factor in World trade through at least the end of 2017. Also, preliminary forecasts for 2018 are that Brazilian corn acreage and production will be lower due to low prices and poor profitability in 2017. Combined with emerging weather concerns in Brazil – these factors “could” have a positive impact on U.S. corn exports and price prospects in spring-summer 2018.
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 2017-2018. 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.
USDA Supply-Demand & Price Forecast for “New Crop” MY 2017/18
In the October 12th Crop Production report, the USDA adjusted its projection of a) 2017 U.S. corn plantings at 90.429 million acres or ‘ma’ (down 3.575 ma from 2016), b) harvested acres of 83.119 ma (down 3.629 ma), c) projected yields of 171.8 bu/ac (vs the record high of 174.6 in 2016), and d) 2017 U.S. corn production of 14.280 bb – down from the record high of 15.148 bb in 2016.
The USDA forecast “new crop” MY 2017/18 total supplies to be 16.625 bb – down 317 mb from last year’s record high. Total use is forecast at 14.285 bb – down 362 mb from last year’s record high. Ending stocks are projected to be 2.240 bb (16.38% S/U) – down from 2.295 bb (15.67% S/U) in “old crop” MY 2016/17. United States’ corn prices are projected to average $3.20 /bu (range of $2.80-$3.60). This is down $0.16 /bu from the midpoint estimate of $3.36 /bu from “old crop” MY 2016/17. This scenario is given a 75% likelihood of occurring by KSU Extension Agricultural Economist D. O’Brien.
Alternative KSU Supply-Demand & Price Forecast for “New Crop” MY 2017/18
Three alternative KSU-Scenarios for U.S. corn supply-demand and prices are presented for “new crop” MY 2017/18. Each forecast scenario presents the likelihood of lower U.S. corn acreage, yields, and production than projected by the USDA in the October 12, 2017 WASDE report for “new crop” MY 2017/18.
- A – KSU “New Crop” MY 2017/18 Scenario #1) “169.5 bu/ac – 14.059 bb” Scenario (20% probability) assumes: 90.404 ma planted, 82.941 ma harvested, 169.5 bu/ac trend yield, 14.059 bb production, 16.404 bb total supplies, 14.241 bb total use, 2.164 bb ending stocks, 15.19% S/U, & $3.35 /bu U.S. corn average price;
- B – KSU “New Crop” MY 2017/18 Scenario #2) “167.3 bu/ac – 13.876 bb” Scenario (5% probability) assumes: 90.404 ma planted, 82.941 ma harvested, 167.3 bu/ac yield, 13.876 bb production, 16.221 bb total supplies, 14.196 bb total use, 2.026 bb ending stocks, 14.27% S/U, & $3.45 /bu U.S. corn average price;
- C – KSU “New Crop” MY 2017/18 “Wildcard” Scenario #3) “169.5 bu/ac – 14.059 bb” Scenario (???% prob.) assumes: 90.404 ma planted, 82.941 ma harvested, 169.5 bu/ac trend yield, 14.059 bb production, 16.404 bb total supplies, 13.926 bb total use, 2.479 bb ending stocks, 17.80% S/U, & ≈ $3.10 /bu U.S. corn average;
Note: even with moderate reductions in 2017 U.S. corn production as represented in the KSU Scenarios A, B and C above, the presence of large beginning stocks of 2.295 bb in “new crop” MY 2017/18 limit the “tightness” of corn supply-demand balances, and hinders any upward price responses.
World Corn Supply-Demand – With & Without China
World corn production of 1,038.8 million metric tons (mmt) is projected for “new crop” MY 2017/18, down 3.4% from the record of 1,075.3 mmt in “old crop” MY 2016/17, but still up 6.8% from 972.4 mmt in MY 2015/16. World corn total supplies of 1,265.8 mmt are projected for “new crop” MY 2017/18, down from the record high of 1,289.3 mmt in “old crop” MY 2016/17, but up from 1,181.8 mmt in MY 2015/16.
World corn exports of a 150.7 mmt are projected for “new crop” MY 2017/18, down 8.0% from the record high of 163.8 mmt in “old crop” MY 2016/17, and up 25.9% from 119.7 mmt in MY 2015/16. Projected World corn ending stocks of 201.0 mmt (18.9% S/U) in “new crop” MY 2017/18 are down from the record high 227.0 mmt (21.4% S/U) in “old crop” MY 2016/17, and from 214.0 mmt (22.1% 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 121.8 mmt (14.8% S/U) in “new crop” MY 2017/18, down from 125.7 mmt (15.1% S/U) in “old crop” MY 2016/17, but up from 103.2 mmt (13.8% S/U). These figures show that World stocks-to-use of corn less China’s direct influence are projected to be down approximately 22% (i.e., 14.8% S/U for the “World Less China” versus 18.9% 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 51.8% in MY 2015/16, to 44.6% in “old crop” MY 2016/17, and down to 39.4% 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.