Bullish and bearish surprises in today's USDA export sales report didn't have much impact on futures trading into the morning break. Prices were little changed from overnight results after release of the latest report.
The bullish surprise, perhaps, came in soybeans, where buying by a Chinese trade delegation last week helped swell the weekly total of net new bookings to 92.3 million bushels. That was substantially more than traders expected to show up on the books this week, though many of the purchases earlier announced likely were mostly for show.
Officially, USDA said China accounted for 47% of the purchases, with "unknown" listed as the destination for another third of the deals. Traders usually believe those will wind up going to China, though they could be shifted down the road.
While this week's total was the biggest in more than a year, it still leaves total commitments at three-year lows. There's a strong correlation between early sales and the final totals recorded for a marketing year, so the weak year-to-date showing suggests USDA may be too high with its forecast for the marketing year. On the other hand, the total booked of 761 million bushels is 44% of USDA's forecast, higher than the average over the past 25 years, though more sales were made early since 2008.
USDA later announced the sale of another 4.4 million bushels of 2015 crop soybeans to China, under its daily reporting system for large purchases. News may be scarce for the next week or so, because many Chinese traders are off for a week-long holiday.
Corn sales of 31.6 million bushels, 93% for 2015 delivery, were in line with trade guesses. While year-to-date totals are a little sluggish, they still show potential for USDA to be in line with its current forecast of 1.85 billion bushels. Mexico accounted for 85% of the 2015 crop purchases, with other buyers taking a load or less. Shipments of 32 million bushels are also starting to pick up as harvest supplies hit the pipeline.
Wheat sales were the laggard again this week, falling to just 2.8 million bushels, a low for the marketing year that began June 1. The biggest buyer was Indonesia, but most of that deal was switched from sales made to unknown destinations announced earlier.
Year-to-date sales and shipments fell to a five-year low with the latest numbers. Still, history suggests there's still potential for the marketing year total to meet or beat USDA's forecast.