CORN------

Corn closed the week 1 ¾ cents higher. Private exporters did not announce any sales. 

In the weekly export inspections report, U.S. corn exports were solid at 50.1 million bushels (mb) and set a new high for the 2019/20 marketing year. This week's export exceeded the average "needed" pace of roughly 40 mb per week in order for the USDA's 1.725 billion bushel (bb) export projection to be reached for the 2nd consecutive week. Last year's exports from this point forward averaged 30.8 mb per week so the shipment pace will need to remain solid, but the overall sales pace of late has been enough to support the USDA's export projection heading into Thursday's report. Cumulative export inspections of 761 mb are still down 37% from last year's 1.210 bb.

In the weekly Energy Information Administration report, U.S. ethanol production plunged again to a new all-time low of 672k barrels per day (bpd) from 840k bpd the previous week and was a massive 32.9% below last year's same-week production of 1.002 million bpd. The previous record low production since EIA began providing weekly data in June 2010 was 770k bpd in the week of 01/25/2013. U.S. ethanol stocks continue to surge, hitting another new record last week of 1.138 billion gallons, jumping 58 million gallons from the previous week and now reflecting a 164 million gallon (17%) increase in stocks from this point last year. 

In the USDA supply and demand report, the USDA raised U.S. corn ending stocks to 2.092 bb versus 1.892 bb in March as they increased feed usage by 150 mb but lowered ethanol demand by 350 mb. Feed usage was raised due to better than expected feed/residual usage amid feeding lower quality corn. Feed usage will decline going forward feed margins slide while ethanol demand will continue to slow as plants continue to sit idle amid slow demand and increasing stocks. This will increase old crop stocks further and the carrying figures for the 2020/21 balance sheets. A major yield loss will be needed to reduce the swelling of corn stocks for the 2020/21 marketing year. 

Strategy and outlook: The loss of ethanol production will hurt U.S. corn demand as ethanol usage accounts for 43% of total demand for corn. Any weather-related rallies should be used as selling opportunities.

 

SOYBEANS------

Soybeans closed the week 9 ¾ cents higher. Private exporters announced sales of 120,000 metric tons (mts) of soybeans to an unknown destination. 

In the weekly export inspections report, U.S. soybean exports last week were just 11 mb and now have set a new marketing year low for two consecutive weeks now. Year ago exports this week were 32.7 mb and soybean exports will need to average roughly 27.6 mb per week, versus last year's 27.2 million per week average, in order to reach the USDA's annual export estimate of 1.825 bb.

In the monthly supply and demand report, the USDA increased the 2019/20 U.S. soybean ending stocks figure to 480 mb, a 55 mb increase from last month as the USDA lowered their forecast of soybean exports by 50 mb. U.S. soybean crush was raised by 20 mb amid strong exports and feed demand while the USDA cut the seed/residual use by 26 mb. Without late season Chinese demand, U.S. exports could slip further and expanding ending stocks. 

The USDA did lower Argentine production by 2 million mts (mmts) to 52 mmts and the Brazilian soybean production estimate was also lowed by 1.5 mmts to 124.5 mmts. 

Strategy and outlook: Soybeans may draw a few acres away from corn, especially if the month of April proves to be wet across the cornbelt.

 

WHEAT-------

For the week, Chicago wheat closed 6 ¾ cents higher, Kansas City wheat closed 19 cents higher and Minneapolis wheat 8 cents higher. Exporters announced sales of 165,000 mts of HRW to China. 

In the weekly export inspections report, U.S. wheat exports last week of 11.8 mb and fell well below the roughly 27.6 mb per week exports need to average if the USDA's 1 bb export projection is to be met. Cumulative export inspections of 764 mb are now up just 7.2% from last year's 713 million with only eight full weeks left in the 2019/20 marketing year. Last year's exports finished strong, averaging 24.7 mb per week during April-May.

In the USDA monthly supply/demand report, 2019/20 wheat stocks were increased by 30 mb from the March report to 970 mb. Feed usage was cut by 15 mb and exports were also cut by 15 mb amid the slowing pace of U.S. exports. Exports could continue to soften and buyers are apt to wait for freshly harvested wheat this summer. The trade will be closely watching weather in the Black Sea region. 

In the first USDA weekly crop progress and conditions report of the year, the USDA indicated winter wheat conditions were 62% good or excellent versus 60% last year. Kansas is rated at 49% good or excellent, Oklahoma is 73% good or excellent, Texas at 62% good or excellent and Nebraska at 77%. SRW conditions are the best in four years and HRW conditions are the best since 2010. 26% of the oats crop has planted versus 29% on average and 7% of nations cotton crop has been seeded versus 5% average.

The Wheat Quality Council canceled the Hard Winter Wheat tour this year.

Strategy and outlook: Any rally needs to be sold as the winter wheat crop is off to a great start and the Russian wheat crop appears to be the second largest on record, which will dominate world exports in the second half of 2020.

 

LIVE CATTLE-----

Last week, live cattle closed $3.37 higher while feeder cattle closed $10.02 higher.

Light fed cattle trade occurred at mostly $105 live and $168 dressed - $7 to $12 lower than the week prior.

The Fed Cattle Exchange Auction had 7,561 head listed for sale in 54 lots. 1,143 head sold in eight lots totals. Kansas sold 746 head at $105, Texas sold 247 head at $105, Iowa sold 350 head at $105 and Oklahoma sold 100 head at $105. 

The latest USDA steer carcass weights were down 7 pounds compared to the prior week at 891, making them 26 pounds above last year. 

Last week's net sales of 15,800 mt were reported for 2020. 

Strategy and outlook: Reaction to the coronavirus and fears of a slowing economy have sent cattle futures into a free fall. Cash trade was sharply lower last week and the futures continue to hold a huge discount to the cash. Producers should be pulling cattle ahead to take advantage of the stronger cash trade than what summer futures are offering.

 

HOGS----

Lean hogs closed the week 85 cents higher. 

Starting this week, normal hog futures limits will be $3.75 with $5.50 expanded limits. 

Iowa and S. Minnesota weekly hog weights for week ending April 4 dropped to 284.7 pounds versus 285.4 pounds last week and 285.7 pounds a year ago.

Last week's net sales of 55,900 mts were reported for 2020 - a marketing-year high with pork shipments at 38,300 mt. China bought 38,700 mt, while taking shipments of 16,300 mt.

Strategy and outlook: The lean hog market has lots of problems, but export demand is not one of them. Despite a marketing year high in exports and very strong shipments, hog futures are under pressure as the market fears additional plant closures and the back up of animals.

Brian Hoops is president and senior market analyst of Midwest Market Solutions Inc. The home office is in Springfield, Mo., with branch offices in Thief River Falls, Minn.; Verona, N.D.; Yankton, S.D.; Storm Lake, Iowa; and Springfield, Neb.