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Basis Outlook - Weak futures boost corn basis

Movement on river system grinds lower as exports stumble.

Slow traffic on the river system isn’t unusual in early January. Holidays and cold weather can make movement difficult. But even by seasonal standards traffic is poor this year,

The number of barges moving south fell to the lowest level in more than five years, in part because few are making it up river to take on cargoes. Total upbound empties fell to the lowest point in more than a decade.

Woes keep adding up for the river system. Ice and low water compounded troubles with aging locks on parts of the system open all winter, with fog slowing traffic when temperatures rose. The Ohio River is a particular trouble spot, weaken corn basis this week there. Bids also fell along the mid-Mississippi River and Illinois River but strengthened closer to the Gulf to fill immediate needs, which haven’t dried up completely.

And, while basis at ethanol plants was mixed, hogs, poultry and cattle still have to eat, keeping demand in livestock areas of the Southeast and southern Plains firm. Low prices kept farmers from selling as they waited for results of the Jan. 12 USDA reports.

That bearish data isn’t likely to encourage movement, because it’s too soon for most farmers to throw in the two. As a result, average corn basis firmed around 1.5 cents this week. Though they remain weaker than average, bids are in line with those seen a year ago.

Soybean basis saw a similar pattern. Average bids strengthened around four cents, but patterns were variable around the country. Basis in the export pipeline was generally weaker except close to the Gulf. But buyers from processors pushed to get supplies as their production remained strong. That pattern is expected to be confirmed when members of the National Oilseed Processors report usage Jan. 16.

Wheat basis was a matter of location, location, location. Soft red winter wheat exports remain dismal, sending bids lower in the eastern Midwest and South. Hard red winter wheat bids on the Plains perked up, though export demand for that class is tepid too, thanks to some interest off the PNW to Asia.

The star of the cash market remains spring wheat, with basis strengthening from Minneapolis to the PNW.

The interactive maps below show how basis fared around the country. Click the box in the upper left-hand corner of the map to bring up the legend, and to turn features show on or off.

Download a printable version of the report using the Download button at the end of this report. 

Bryce Knorr first joined Farm Futures Magazine in 1987. In addition to analyzing and writing about the commodity markets, he is a former futures introducing broker and is a registered Commodity Trading Advisor. He conducts Farm Futures exclusive surveys on acreage, production and management issues and is one of the analysts regularly contracted by business wire services before major USDA crop reports. Besides the Morning Call on he writes weekly reviews for corn, soybeans, and wheat that include selling price targets, charts and seasonal trends. His other weekly reviews on basis, energy, fertilizer and financial markets and feature price forecasts for key crop inputs. A journalist with 38 years of experience, he received the Master Writers Award from the American Agricultural Editors Association.

For more corn, wheat and soy news, commodity marketing recommendations and daily commodity charts, subscribe to Farm Futures' free e-newsletter, Farm Futures Daily, and keep up during the day with Farm Futures on Twitter.

TAGS: Outlook Corn
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