USDA Reports Key To Trade Direction

3-31-14 – The key to commodity futures trading today will be the USDA’s Quarterly Stocks and Prospective Plantings reports, closely followed by Friday’s Quarterly Hogs and Pigs report.  The Hogs report was called bearish after its release Friday, and the March grains reports have a history of spawning volatile trading.\r\n\r\n   Pre-report surveys of trader expectations of 92.75 million planted acres of corn, down from 95.37 million last year; 81.08 million acres of soybeans, up from 76.53 million last year, and 56.28 million acres of wheat, up slightly from 56.16 million last year.\r\n\r\n   For March 1 stocks, traders estimated 7.099 billion bushels of corn, up from 5.4 billion last year; 985 million bushels of soybeans, down from 998 million, and 1.042 billion bushels of wheat, down from 1.235 billion.\r\n\r\n   The reports are scheduled for release at noon Eastern Time, and trading could be light and choppy until then.\r\n\r\n   Despite trader expectations for a decline in soybean stocks, market reports of interior basis levels are below a year ago, hinting that stocks aren’t as tight as they were a year ago.  And there is speculation that the USDA may have under-estimated last year’s crop size, which could be reflected in stocks.\r\n\r\n   Corn plantings are a question mark for many, as weather conditions may alter intentions.  Rain and cold soil temperatures already have hampered early planting in parts of the Delta and southern Midwest, and another storm is sweeping across the Dakotas and into the Midwest.\r\n\r\n \r\n\r\nLEAN HOGS EXPECTED LOWER\r\n\r\n \r\n\r\n   April lean hogs traded lower on profit taking ahead of the USDA’s Hog report, so much of the report’s bearish effect could already be in the market.  However, some were surprised as the herd size seemed to defy death losses from PEDv.  Some even expected prices to be down the daily limit today and possibly Tuesday.\r\n\r\n   The report showed 62.899 million total hogs, down 3% from a year ago.  This might be considered bullish except that traders were expecting only 61.493 million for a decline of 5.5%.\r\n\r\n   It was clear that producers were trying to compensate for PEDv losses with more farrowings.  The number of sows kept for breeding was 5.851 million head, about steady with a year ago and slightly higher than the trade estimate.\r\n\r\n   The number that may raise more conversation is the total kept for market at 57.048 million head, compared with the estimate of 55.683 million.  Either winter’s cold slowed growth rates and boosted the March 1 total, PEDv losses aren’t as great as thought or producers already are trying to breed their way past the issue.\r\n\r\n   There are some, however, who contend that since this report is as of March 1 and that PEDv reports keep coming in that the report already is behind the times as far as herd size and marketing numbers are concerned.\r\n\r\n \r\n\r\nCATTLE MARKETS COULD SEE SPILLOVER PRESSURE\r\n\r\n \r\n\r\n   Cattle and beef markets could see spillover pressure from the hog market adding to ideas that consumers will shy away from rising beef prices.  Wholesale beef tumbled hard last week, especially on Friday as the USDA reported its choice cutout value down $4.79 per cwt at $234.46 and its select cutout down $3.87 at $227.34.  For the week, choice was down $5.70, and select was off $6.32.\r\n\r\n   Weekly slaughter was 585,000 head versus 575,000 the previous week but down from last year’s 598,000.  Beef production was estimated at 465.4 million pounds, compared with 458.3 million a week ago and 470.1 million a year ago.\r\n\r\n   The CME Feeder Cattle Index for the seven days ended Thursday was $178.55, up $0.57 while the March futures contract settled Friday at $178.55, unchanged.\r\n\r\n \r\n\r\nIN OUR OPINION\r\n\r\n \r\n\r\n–After the initial bearish shock of the hog report hits, prices could rebound since actual numbers are lower than a year ago.\r\n\r\n–Cattle could be pressured by thoughts the market is nearing overbought territory on daily charts.\r\n\r\n–Ukrainian grain exporters will be hurt by cancellation of the Value Added Tax rebate as part of the IMF austerity package.\r\n\r\n–US/Russia agreement that Ukraine crisis needs diplomatic solution could calm investor nerves.