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Soybeans hit 8-month highs as processing surges

04/15/2014 @ 3:32pm

Soybeans jumped to the highest price in more than eight months after an industry report showed the amount of the oilseeds processed in March topped expectations.

The U.S. soybean crush rate in March totaled 153.84 million bushels, according to the National Oilseed Processors Association. That topped analysts' expectations of 144.6 million bushels.

More soybeans were processed because of strong demand for products made from the crop, including oil used in cooking and meal turned into animal feed. Global and domestic animals feeders snapped up soybean meal supplies in March, leading to improved profit margins for processors, said Terry Reilly, an analyst with brokerage Futures International LLC in Chicago.

"The month of March overall was strong for the products [made from soybeans] so that led to higher crush rates than traders expected," Mr. Reilly said.

Soybean futures for May delivery gained 25 cents, or 1.7%, to $15.01 1/4 a bushel on the CBOT, the highest price since July 22.

Wheat rose the most in more than a month on speculation that cold, dry weather will curb U.S. production amid concerns about potentially declining production and exports from Ukraine.

Temperatures dropped below freezing in parts of Kansas and Oklahoma, the biggest growers of hard-red winter wheat that is used to make bread. That may cause winterkill, or plant death caused by extremely low temperatures. That, combined with an ongoing drought in the western third of both states, will likely cut yields.

In Ukraine, where tensions with Russia have escalated, the currency has continued to devalue, which makes farmers less willing to immediately sell any grain they have available. Credit to buy inputs for planting such as seed and fertilizer has also been difficult to obtain because of the political issues, which may hurt production.

"The combination of the cold and the dry weather and the Ukraine has put support under this wheat market," said Larry Glenn, an analyst at brokerage Frontier Ag in Quinter, Kan.

Wheat futures for May delivery gained 23 cents, or 3.4%, to $7.01 3/4 a bushel in Chicago, the biggest single-day gain for a front-month contract since March 12.

Corn gained, partly due to the rising tensions in Ukraine, expected to be the world's third-biggest exporter of the grain this year, and as cold weather and rain delays field work and planting in the U.S.

As much as 6 inches of rain fell in Iowa on Sunday and Monday, muddying fields where farmers would normally be applying fertilizer or preparing soil for planting. As much as six times the normal amounts of rain has fallen in the past two weeks in three bands of stormy weather that range from Iowa to Michigan, Missouri to Ohio, and Texas to Florida, NWS data show.

While that has delayed planting, it has also improved soil moisture for plants once they are finally planted, analysts said.

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