U.S. farmers will plant less corn this spring and more soybeans as low crop prices favor the oilseed, but USDA's forecast on Tuesday for corn acreage of 89.2 million acres was more than traders expected and sent Chicago corn futures sharply lower.
The 89.2 million would be down 2% from 2014 but the trade expected about 88.7 million. USDA's soybean acreage of 84.635 million, up 1% from 2014, also was a mild surprise, as it was less than the trade view of about 85.9 million.
"USDA's acreage data wasn't wildly more than the trade anticipated, but it did catch many leaning the wrong way, triggering the selloff after the report," Bryce Knorr, Farm Futures senior grain analyst, said of the corn. "The bottom line for corn in 2015 would be a 13.467 billion bushel crop, enough to meet demand and keeping ending stocks around 1.8 billion bushels, for an average cash price of $3.80."
Chicago May corn futures were trading about 16 cents lower near midday at $3.78-1//2 per bushel and new-crop December was off 15-3/4 at $4.02-1/2.
Soybeans traded about 6 cents higher shortly after the report, but gains moderated by midday with May up 2 at $9.69-3/4 and new-crop November up 1-1/4 at $9.50-1/2.
For soybeans, USDA's acreage estimate of 84.635 million was friendly to prices, said Knorr, as it suggests "potential for a 3.77 billion bushel crop based on yields of 45.1 bpa."
"That would be enough to meet demand, but 2014 carryout could be lower because the stocks data continues to hint that the 2014 crop was smaller than previously estimated, perhaps by a significant amount. The difference in price potential is huge: average cash prices from $9 to $10," he said.
USDA also released quarterly grain stocks on Tuesday, with March 1 corn supplies at 7.745 billion bushels, soybeans at 1.334 billion and wheat at 1.124 billion. The corn stocks topped trade forecasts, while the soybeans and wheat were lower. Stocks for all three topped year ago supplies.
.As expected, USDA also forecast an increase in durum wheat acreage to 1.647 million from 2014's1.4 million, but trimmed other spring wheat to 12.869 million from 2014's 13.025 million.
Minneapolis spring wheat futures traded lower after the report along with the other wheat markets, with May down 14 cents at $5.76-3/4 and September off 13-3/4 at $5,89-1.2.
"The wheat data should not cause much of a fuss because supplies remain adequate unless the 2015 crop is a bust. Wheat will follow corn for now, and at the moment that's lower," said Knorr.
USDA's full March 31 prospective planting and grain stocks reports can be found on the agency website.