Market sells off sharply


As teenagers, this was a word associated with anticipation, not trepidation.

Times change when you become an adult - and particularly an adult involved in the global grain trade.

Let's face it, the last few days in our business has delivered the kind of gyrations young men of our generation could only dream about - figuratively speaking, of course. CME Dec Wheat has traded the length and breadth of its "two month" range - all the way from $US9.30 down to $8.80/bu.

Meanwhile corn futures crashed through "medium-term support" about $US7.80/bu - falling below $US7.50/bu in Monday night trade.

This has seen Aussie cash bids fall by up to $10/MT - with sorghum values now close to $240/MT NTP Brisbane/Newcastle. Meanwhile, East Coast APW Multigrade wheat bids are trading between $302/MT to $311/MT depending on the port zone.

There's been all kinds of talk about why the market sold off so sharply, including: evidence from the Farm Service Agency that USDA corn and soybean planted acreage estimates are understated; market chatter about a potential US/China trade dispute; and increased harvest pressure now that more than a quarter of the US corn crop is off the stalk.

There's been talk of improved summer crop planting conditions in Brazil - and we've even picked up "news" of widespread welcome rain in Australia on global market wires ... we just wish they'd told us where it fell.

But the truth of the matter is probably more closely linked to the fact speculative interests had overplayed their positions on the long side, and the fat men were looking for a reason to get out.

As mentioned in last week's report, this influence may have been exacerbated by end-of- month, end-of-quarter and end-of-financial-year "money flows" as traders move to crystallise profits.

At the end of the day however, it would be surprising if this sell-off doesn't stimulate a fresh round of physical demand from consumers, a development that could serve to "tighten" global grain balance sheets.

So, where to from here?

To be honest, it's hard to see why prices drop much further. Fundamentally, nothing has really changed. US corn and soybean crops aren't getting bigger, despite harvest pressure; Russia is starting to run out of "cheap" exportable wheat; and our own wheat crop is shrinking daily under clear blue skies.

We are at a crossroads on the futures charts. The short-term trend is down for CME corn and wheat - but this looks more like a correction in a longer-term uptrend. Support rests at current levels of about $US7.50/bu for corn and $US8.80/bu for wheat, so the "chartists" and "black box" traders will be watching closely for price action from these levels.

Topics:  business columns commodities grains markets wheat