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Corn Declines After U.S. Cuts Supply Outlook Less Than Forecast

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Corn Declines After U.S. Cuts Supply Outlook Less Than Forecast

  • Soybean futures rise as U.S. inventory seen plummeting 77%
  • USDA boosts China corn-import estimate 37% after buying spree

Corn futures fell from a seven-year high after the U.S. trimmed its estimate for domestic inventory less than expected following a record Chinese buying binge.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture cut its ending-stock outlook for the current season to 1.5 billion bushels from the January forecast of 1.55 billion, figures from a monthly report showed Tuesday. Analysts surveyed by Bloomberg expected an 11% drop to 1.38 billion.

China’s ravenous appetite for grain, coupled with harvest delays in South America, boosted concerns that supplies in U.S. silos are dwindling. The inventory woes have sent corn, wheat and soybean futures to multiyear highs. The Asian nation’s buying spree isn’t over, Cargill Inc. said last week.

“China remains the million-dollar question,” said Terry Reilly, an analyst at Futures International LLC in Chicago.

Prices drop after WASDE shows bigger-than-expected stocks

Corn futures for March delivery fell 1.3% to settle at $5.5625 a bushel on the Chicago Board of Trade after falling as much as 3.3% following the release of the World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates by the USDA. Earlier, the price reached $5.7425, the highest for a most-active contract since May 2013.

At least one analyst cast doubt on the U.S. stockpile forecast.

“USDA’s number for U.S. corn stocks is totally obsolete,” said Pedro Dejneka, a partner at Chicago-based MD Commodities. Inventory is “much lower than the USDA says,” and the price slump “should be temporary,” he said.

The USDA raised its estimate for corn exports by 2% to 2.6 billion bushels and boosted the forecast for Chinese imports 37% to 24 million metric tons.

China’s agriculture ministry on Tuesday affirmed its import outlook at 10 million tons. A government think tank last week increased its estimate to 20 million.

China, the world’s biggest pork producer, boosted grain purchases on the world market to feed its expanding hog herds, as well as to supply the starch and sweetener industry. In late January, the Asian nation bought almost 6 million tons of U.S. corn in one week, a record for a single country.

Soybean futures for March delivery rose 1% to $14.0175 a bushel after reaching $14.095, the highest since Jan. 19.

U.S. ending stocks may tumble 77% to 120 million bushels from a year earlier to the lowest since 2013-14, government data showed.

Wheat futures for March delivery dropped 1% to $6.495 a bushel. Earlier, the price reached $6.605, the highest since Feb. 1.

The USDA affirmed its estimate on exports from Russia, the world’s biggest shipper, suggesting that a tax plan to curb trade and limit food inflation hasn’t reduced supplies to the global market.

— With assistance by Dominic Carey, Jonathan Gilbert, Isis Almeida, and Megan Durisin