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Soybean rallies coming down the road

Gene Johnston 12/04/2012 @ 12:39pm On the scene at the 2012 Cattle Convention, Nashville

Anne Frick isn’t highly bullish long-term for soybeans, but she does see potential for a couple good rallies later this year. The senior oilseed analyst for Jefferies Bache in New York says you should watch for these developments.

Short stocks in March. One billion bushels: Watch for this number in the USDA March 1 report of U.S. soybean stocks. If it’s that or less, it’s bullish. We’ve had a big movement of U.S. soybean exports in the first half of the marketing year (started last September 1), bigger than can be maintained for the full year. Because there was a shortfall in last year’s South American soybean crop from dry weather, a lot of early export booking was done when the U.S. drought kicked in. “If the recorded stocks of soybeans is 1 billion bushels or less,” says Frick, “it will predict much more rationing of supplies is needed. Stocks were 1.3 billion bushels last year, and this could be the lowest since 2004.”

Logistical problems in South America. They have problems (trucks and barges) in getting crops delivered to terminals. “They are going to produce a record large crop, we know that. The question is by how much,” Frick says, with the biggest issue being excessive moisture in some growing regions. “Big crops of both soybeans and corn could slow movement in Brazil. In Argentina, they harvest later, closer to our summer, and the question there is the pace of farmer selling. If it is slow, that could also add a bullish side to soybeans this spring.”

U.S. weather. Most people are still worried about lingering dry weather here in the U.S., and that discussion will heat up this spring as planting approaches. The bigger worry will be about the corn crop, not soybeans. Frick points out that corn yields in the 2012 drought were more disappointing. The national corn average of 122 bushels an acre was only 73.7% of the trend yield projected last spring. Soybeans, on the other hand, at 39.5 bushels an acre made 89.5% of trend yield, despite drought.

Put these together – very short stocks, poor South American crop delivery, continued dry weather worries - and Frick thinks soybeans could rally to the $15-$16 per bushel range in July futures. That would be a new record high for that month, but still short of the all-time high of $17.95 set late last summer in the September contract.

After the spring price bump, Frick says the next one could come in the late summer or fall of 2013. “I think U.S. usage will pick up and if we have a good crop, then we could see a nice post-harvest advance,” she says. “If we have a poor crop, the highs are likely to be made early as was the case in 2012. The South American supplies could be depleted to world demand by fall, and depending on our weather, it could be a marketing opportunity for soybean farmers,” she says.

Longer term, Frick is more tempered about soybeans relative to corn: “We still have to face the growing export competition for world soybean markets, competition that corn doesn’t face to the same degree,” she says. She thinks U.S. farmers will find a few new acres for both crops, partly due to land coming out of CRP fallow, and more acres of soybeans double-cropped after wheat where that system is possible. Her early call is to bump soybean planted acres to 79 million acres in 2013, up from 77 million last year.

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