Everybody loves a good mystery, and the latest "who done it" in the grain trade remains unsolved.
Corn prices turned around sharply late last week, boosted in part by rumors China bought some 20 cargoes of U.S. grain, or around 40 million bushes. But officials with the state grain buying agency there denied they were in the market, and USDA's daily reporting system only mentioned sales of 9.1 million bushels to "unknown destinations."
Traders looking to solve the puzzle hoped today's Export Sales report would provide clues, at the least. It didn't. China failed to make the list of buyers reported by the government.
That wasn't entirely unexpected, since the report only included sales reported to the agency by Thursday of last week. Merchandisers have 24 hours to report big sales, and there was talk the deals might have been made through foreign firms, further clouding notice procedures.
The controversy overshadowed the weekly totals, which were in line with trade guesses at 35.2 million bushels. South Korea led the list of buyers, thanks to previously reported deals, but Japan, the world's biggest corn importer, was also on board for four cargoes, with shipments of 11.5 million bushels listed. That continues to suggest business is reviving, after the country's multiple disasters.
While China didn't buy any corn in the latest week, at least not officially, it was taking wheat, buying 4.3 million bushels. That could spur a little talk about drought in China, though conditions have improved and it's no unusual for China to import high quality wheat it can't find locally. Sales for the week came in at 27.4 million bushels, above trade guesses, but shipments remain behind the pace needed to reach USDA's forecast for the marketing year.
Soybean sales, meanwhile, continue to wind down, with the weekly total falling to 9.7 million bushels, all old crop. China made only a toke purchase, though it continues to aggressively ship out previous purchases.
For the complete export report, click here. Weekly Export Sales (million bushels) AS OF WEEK ENDING 3/17/11 Actual Last Week Trade Est. USDA F'cast Export Ship-ments USDA F'cast % of USDA Commit. Ave. % of USDA Ship-ments Ave. Wheat 27.4 31.6 23.9 5.6 22.9 37.0 95% 90% 71% 75% Corn 35.2 52.6 34.5 10.0 34.6 19.8 73% 72% 47% 54% Soybeans 9.7 16.5 11.0 4.9 30.0 15.8 93% 86% 77% 74% Source: USDA, Reuters
Weekly Export Sales (million bushels)
AS OF WEEK ENDING
% of USDA Commit.
% of USDA Ship-ments
Source: USDA, Reuters