Guest Post - "2012 Grain Outlook"

Sat, Mar 10, 2012 - 10:33am

A few days ago, I commissioned our resident grain trading expert, "Art Lomax", to write up a guest post that includes some basics about the grains as well as some of his personal opinions regarding the upcoming season. Thankfully, he obliged.

2012 Grain Outlook


Art Lomax

So what’s the skinny on the grain markets for 2012? There appears to be a widespread concern that there will be an expansion of corn acres and production beyond demand leading to a big increase in corn ending stocks, and at the same time leaving a tighter bean situation with too small an acre base. And with wheat, another historically large global crop on the horizon for 2012. The wheat market seems to be trying to trace out a bottom, corn is transitioning to be the weak sister of the complex, and soybeans becoming the leader, especially with recent production problems in South America now placing a little more bullish sensitivity to US planted acres and early season new crop development in the US.

2011 was a good year for most US grain farmers. While some were hurt in drought areas and flooding in other areas, most farms saw record income due to high prices and record exports. World wheat, rice, and cotton stocks were replenished with the increase in supply reflected in prices. However, corn and soybeans just came off a short crop due to weather issues, and now the South American crop has been reduced due to drought and high temperatures in key growing areas. Soybeans over $12 and corn near $6 are still at historically high price levels. The seasonal high price for corn and soybeans occurred last September, and the lows will likely come later this summer. But in between, price volatility should be high. The topic of most interest now is how many acres of each crop will be planted.

On March 30, this question will be answered. The Prospective Plantings report, put out by the USDA, will report the expected plantings for most major commodities grown in the US. This report is particularly important, as it gives the first indications of what we will see in the US crop mix. Historically, this report has been a market driver, resulting in a “battle for acres”.

But remember, this report is only an indication of planting intentions. Another report comes out on June 30, which tends to be the final number on US acres. Other reports to look for throughout the growing season are the crop progress reports and the crop production reports. The crop progress report is a weekly report that covers planting progress, developmental progress, and the condition ratings for the crop. The production report is a monthly report that focuses on production, usage, and ending stocks. All of these reports, along with potential weather issues, will give the market plenty of news to trade. Throw in some middle east oil market disruptions, the Euro Union meltdown, unexpected Chinese buying, the accommodative Federal Reserve, and some election year shenanigans, and there should be plenty of trading opportunities in the grain markets this year.

Currently, the market is trading a bean acres number of 75 million acres, unchanged vs last year but down 1.6 million from last year intentions which were not achieved due to excessive moisture during planting. Increased winter wheat acres and more corn is why this number is unchanged. Even with trend line yields on these acres, US bean stocks are expected to decrease, especially now that the US will have to make up for the South American shortfall. Beans are pretty overbought right now and due a correction, but should be well supported on any pullbacks due to the expected increase in US demand caused by the reduced crops in South America.

Corn is probably trading 94 million acres vs 91.9 last year. A trend line yield on these acres would put US ending stocks next summer at 1.6 billion bushels, double the 801 million this year. Production estimates do not get a lot of argument but recognize that we have not been able to dependably produce the trend line yields used by the USDA for the last two years. But the bottom line is that corn acres should be big, and a USDA number of 95 million acres would be bearish. Also, corn use for ethanol is flattening and is expected to fall this year. Do not look for buyers to chase the market, and farmer selling could pick up. The USDA surprised the market several times last year. Be careful here.

One wildcard this year could be increased Chinese buying of corn and soybeans. This could be a positive catalyst to US markets if they decide to be more active in imports. The Chinese are very concerned about food security and keeping domestic food prices under control. Food shortages and high prices lead to political instability, like we saw last year in MENA.

The other wildcard would be weather. With rising global trade and increased demand for protein, the US and the world cannot afford another year of decreasing corn supplies. The balance between the grain we produce and the grain we consume is razor thin. We saw what happened last summer as corn had to trade over $8 to ration demand.

I am not trying to call this market one way or another, but just wanted to present the factors that will affect the grain markets this year, and look at the big picture. The US stocks/use ratio remain on the lower end of historical ranges, certainly not high enough to cushion a severe crop failure. Let’s all hope for record yields on record acres to provide more breathing room.

I hope this summary helps explain to those not familiar with the grain trade the dynamics that can affect the markets. I appreciate Mr. Ferguson giving me opportunity to share.



For those of you wishing to trade the grains this spring, of course the most direct way to do this would be futures and futures options on the Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT). Those unwilling to go that route can also attempt to profit by trading an ETF that goes by the symbol "DAG". It is composed of roughly 25% soybean futures, 25% corn futures, 25% wheat futures and 25% sugar futures.

Here are some charts of the grains plus sugar:

Lastly, I thought I should attach below a comment I posted in the previous thread regarding the Commitment of Traders report from late yesterday. The net change of positions over the course of the "manufactured corrective event" is breathtaking. It looks quite certain that the bottoms for the "event" have been reached!

​Large Specs down 32,938 or -14.26%
Small Specs down 11,963 or -17.00%
​Cartel short down 37,235 or -9.54%
Cartel net short down 45,143 or -18.4%
Additionally, the last two days of OI changes show continued short covering and long initiation in gold. Combine that with price holding above 1680 and closing above 1710 and I firmly believe that it is safe to say: BUY BUY BUY! THE BOTTOM OF THIS "CORRECTION" IS IN!
Large Specs down 7,377 or -19.41%
Small Specs down 1,621 or -6.7%
Cartel short down 6,270 or -8.00%
Cartel net short down 8,797 or -19.73%
Silver looks great, too. Getting the EE net short ratio back under 2 is significant. The last time this ratio was under 2 was the CoT survey of 1/31/12. That night silver closed at 33.32. This past Tuesday, silver closed at 32.78. Therefore, it would definitely appear that he worst is over for silver, too."""

Now, all of that said, apparently Santa advised traders yesterday to move to a net flat position based upon the uncertainty that the Greek "default" adds to the mix. Prudence would dictate that he is right. This upcoming week may be quite volatile and anyone using leverage could quickly be put in a world of hurt. Be cautious if trading but I wouldn't hesitate to use any additional weakness to add phyzz for stacking.

Have a great weekend and be ready come Monday! TF

About the Author

turd [at] tfmetalsreport [dot] com ()


Art LomaxHayman
Mar 11, 2012 - 3:06pm

Good points Hayman

Thanks for the additional information. I agree with it all. To comment on your points:

1. Wheat has been and is being substituted for corn in feed rations keeping corn prices in check. Will be tough for corn to trade through that 6.70 resistance area.

3. USDA lost a lot of credibility last year with the inconsistent stocks reports. From what I'm hearing from farmers and seed industry contacts, I believe we will see a big corn acres number on March 30. We will see. But trend line yield will be hard to attain.

4. Chinese report corn stocks are adequate but like you say, domestic prices are $9-$10 I'm told. If stocks are adequate, why are prices at record high? I look for China to be a buyer of US corn on any price setbacks. They must control domestic food inflation to keep the masses in control, and also want to rebuild their strategic food reserve.

And like you said, weather will be key to price direction.

Here's a recent article regarding China.

I Run Bartertown
Mar 11, 2012 - 3:04pm

New Rules of Engagement

Video unavailable

"It seems the peacefuls stopped the war
Left generals squashed and stifled
But I'll slip out again tonight
Cause they haven't taken back my rifle

For I promote oblivion
And I'll plug a few civilians"

Mar 11, 2012 - 2:57pm
Mar 11, 2012 - 12:25pm

Gold Silver Ratio

Has anyone else noticed that the gold silver ratio has been trending down over 2012?

It seems like someone threw a switch on the HFT algo on Jan 1.

Mar 11, 2012 - 12:15pm

Sprott interview from October 2011

Skip to 8:40 into the interview.

Video unavailable
Mar 11, 2012 - 11:17am

Feels like a con.

"Accidental" Koran burning, and now a "rogue" soldier killing civilians.

It's hard to verify any of these news reports. Feels like they are just leading us somewhere we don't want to go.

If these events are true are they really random events, or are they deliberate. I just feel like I'm being fed a spoonful of operation whip up Afghanistan. WHY?

Key Economic Events Week of 5/18

5/18 2:00 ET Goon Bostic speech
5/19 8:30 ET Housing starts
5/19 10:00 ET CGP and Mnuchin US Senate
5/20 10:00 ET Goon Bullard speech
5/20 2:00 ET April FOMC minutes
5/21 8:30 ET Philly Fed
5/21 9:45 ET Markit flash PMIs for May
5/21 10:00 ET Goon Williams speech
5/21 1:00 ET Goon Chlamydia speech
5/21 2:30 ET Chief Goon Powell speech

Mar 11, 2012 - 11:17am

Eric Sprott

Integrity at the highest level.

Can't wait to get an account with his gold backed bank.

List of silver bars:

I don't mind the premium, I know where my silver is.

It took about a month to get delivery.

Mar 11, 2012 - 11:14am

Thanks Art.   Enjoyed

Thanks Art.

Enjoyed discussions and trading last year..........UNTIL the MF Crap hit me. I'm back and hope to add some AG activity before long.

Best Regards, Tally

Mar 11, 2012 - 11:06am

Santa's Clarification Turd

Hi Turd,

I posted Santa's clarification about an houe ago......Hmm i blv it's gonna be a wild ride for quite sometime..also the amount ofdefaut has shot from $3.5 billion to $70...still peanuts i belive...another excuse for the Cartel resulting in waterfall collapse???or will the Cartel get caught with their pants down??

Mar 11, 2012 - 10:48am

Yes, this is incredibly bad news

Look how pissed off they got that the U.S. accidentally burned a few Korans. Now this?

It's going to be a wild week.

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Key Economic Events Week of 5/18

5/18 2:00 ET Goon Bostic speech
5/19 8:30 ET Housing starts
5/19 10:00 ET CGP and Mnuchin US Senate
5/20 10:00 ET Goon Bullard speech
5/20 2:00 ET April FOMC minutes
5/21 8:30 ET Philly Fed
5/21 9:45 ET Markit flash PMIs for May
5/21 10:00 ET Goon Williams speech
5/21 1:00 ET Goon Chlamydia speech
5/21 2:30 ET Chief Goon Powell speech

Key Economic Events Week of 5/11

5/11 12:00 ET Goon Bostic speech
5/11 12:30 ET Goon Evans speech
5/12 8:30 ET CPI
5/12 9:00 ET Goon Kashnkari speech
5/12 10:00 ET Goon Quarles speech
5/12 10:00 ET Goon Harker speech
5/12 5:00 ET Goon Mester speech
5/13 8:30 ET PPI
5/13 9:00 ET Chief Goon Powell speech
5/14 8:30 ET Initial jobless claims and import prices
5/14 1:00 ET Another Goon Kashnkari speech
5/14 6:00 ET Goon Kaplan speech
5/15 8:30 ET Retail Sales and Empire State index
5/15 9:15 ET Cap Ute and Ind Prod
5/15 10:00 ET Business Inventories

Key Economic Events Week of 5/4

5/4 10:00 ET Factory Orders
5/5 8:30 ET US Trade Deficit
5/5 9:45 ET Markit Service PMI
5/5 10:00 ET ISM Sevrice PMI
5/6 8:15 ET ADP jobs report
5/7 8:30 ET Productivity
5/8 8:30 ET BLSBS
5/8 10:00 ET Wholesale Inventories

Key Economic Events Week of 4/27

4/28 8:30 ET Advance trade in goods
4/28 9:00 ET Case-Shiller home prices
4/29 8:30 ET Q1 GDP first guess
4/29 2:00 ET FOMC Fedlines
4/29 2:30 ET CGP presser
4/30 8:30 ET Pers Inc and Cons Spend
4/30 9:45 ET Chicago PMI
5/1 9:45 ET Markit Manu PMI
5/1 10:00 ET ISM Manu PMI

Key Economic Events Week of 4/20

4/20 8:30 ET Chicago Fed
4/21 10:00 ET Existing home sales
4/23 8:30 ET Weekly jobless claims
4/23 9:45 ET Markit flash PMIs
4/24 8:30 ET Durable Goods

Key Economic Events Week of 4/6

4/8 2:00 ET March FOMC minutes
4/9 8:30 ET Producer Price Index
4/10 8:30 ET Consumer Price Index

Key Economic Events Week of 3/30

3/31 9:45 ET Chicago PMI
4/1 8:15 ET ADP Employment
4/1 9:45 ET Markit manu PMI
4/1 10:00 ET ISM manu PMI
4/2 10:00 ET Factory Orders
4/3 8:30 ET BLSBS
4/3 9:45 ET Market service PMI
4/3 10:00 ET ISM service PMI

Key Economic Events Week of 3/23

3/24 9:45 ET Markit flash PMIs
3/25 8:30 ET Durable Goods
3/26 8:30 ET Weekly jobless claims
3/27 8:30 ET Personal Inc and Spending

Key Economic Events Week of 3/9

(as if these actually matter)
3/11 8:30 ET CPI
3/12 8:30 ET weekly jobless claims
3/12 8:30 ET PPI
3/13 8:30 ET Import Price Index

Key Economic Events Week of 3/2

3/2 9:45 ET Markit Manu PMI
3/2 10:00 ET ISM Manu PMI
3/2 10:00 ET Construction Spending
3/4 8:15 ET ADP employment
3/4 9:45 ET Markit Service PMI
3/4 10:00 ET ISM Services PMI
3/5 8:30 ET Productivity & Unit Labor Costs
3/5 10:00 ET Factory Orders
3/6 8:30 ET BLSBS
3/6 10:00 ET Wholesale Inventories

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