The 2013 U.S. corn crop will be a bin-busting 30 percent bigger than last year's drought-afflicited harvest, but U.S. corn consumption will surge by 17 percent, the U.S. government said on Friday, forecasting less corn at the end of the marketing year than people in the industry had expected.
Growers are reaping the biggest-ever U.S. crop, a dramatic about-face from three years of ever-smaller harvests. World corn, wheat, rice and soybean crops also are records this season, said the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Traders said that even with resurgent U.S. demand, the corn harvest is so large that the global surplus will persist for months.
"These are not bullish numbers," said analyst Rich Nelson of Allendale Inc. High demand will sop up some of the surplus, he said, "However, we do not expect a rally as these are very bearish ending stocks."
Still, the demand projection was enough to lift corn futures which had fallen this week to their lowest price since August 2010. At the Chicago Board of Trade, corn for delivery in December rose by 1.5 percent. November soybeans were up by 2 percent while December wheat fell by 0.5 percent.
USDA estimated the corn crop at 13.989 billion bushels, barely below the average of trade expectations. The crop would be 3.2 billion bushels or 30 percent larger than last year.
Corn usage during the 2013/14 marketing year that opened on Sept. 1 was estimated for 12.95 billion bushels, up 17 percent or 1.84 billion bushels from 2012/13 with exports nearly doubling and a 20 percent increase in corn for livestock feed.
'SOCKS FOR CHRISTMAS'
Still, the corn stockpile would climb by more than 1 billion bushels, to 1.887 billion bushels. Traders, who had expected end stocks of 2.029 billion bushels, saw little impact from the smaller U.S. figure.
"The biggest takeaway here is the big global corn ending stocks number," said Sterling Smith, a futures specialist for Citigroup.
USDA boosted its estimate of world corn stocks by nearly 9 percent, to 164.33 million tonnes, reflecting the larger U.S. corn crop and larger stockpiles in China.
It was the first USDA crop forecast in two months because of the government shutdown in October and, with harvest running at full throttle, was eagerly awaited. The data fell flat with traders, who found few surprises.
"It's a little like expecting a red wagon for Christmas and getting socks and underwear ... there is absolutely nothing in here," said president Chris Manns of Traders Group Inc. "The ending stocks for corn were a little interesting, a little lower than expected so USDA obviously is boosting demand from the livestock, ethanol and export sectors."
The U.S. soybean crop would be the third-largest on record at 3.258 billion bushels, 1 percent larger than the analysts expected, USDA said. It estimated ending stocks of 170 million bushels, close to the 172 million expected by analysts.
"Ending stocks of soybeans were near the middle of the estimate range, but some were expecting stocks at 200 million or more so the soybean stocks number was a little bullish," said Karl Setzer, analyst at MaxYield Co-Op.
In global terms, with a crop of 88.66 million tonnes, the United States reclaimed the title of the world's largest soybean grower, edging out Brazil's 88.0 million which is a record for that South American country.
U.S. wheat ending stocks were forecast at 565 million bushels, well above expectations of 516 million bushels. Higher flour extraction rates reduced demand for food wheat.
HIGHER CORN YIELDS
USDA raised its forecast of the corn crop by 1 percent from its previous report as higher yields offset smaller harvested area. Corn was forecast to yield an average 160.4 bushels an acre, nearly 2.5 bushels more than traders expected.
"Higher yields are forecast this month across the Plains, Corn Belt, and South," it said.
For soybeans, USDA raised its crop estimate by 3 percent from its previous estimate and 7 percent above the 2012 crop. World oilseed production was also forecast at a record high for 2013/14.
The gargantuan crops had already pulled down futures prices, and USDA's forecasts suggested that the selloff could go further at some point.
"When you look at the overall numbers, you are still in a supply bear market on corn. We have cooled the fever; it does not mean that the market is still not sick," said Don Roose, analyst at U.S. Commodities.
USDA forecast the lowest farm-gate price for corn in five years, an average of $4.50 per bushel. U.S. corn and soybean prices set record highs during last year's drought — $8.43-3/4 a bushel for corn and $7.94-3/4 a bushel for soybeans.
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