November 21: Wheat Prices Reactive to Radioactive News

Wheat prices pushed higher despite concerns about record stocks.

News out of Russia raised concerns about radioactive materials, but was it bad enough to affect the world’s largest wheat exporter?

Meanwhile, corn prices and soybean prices both slid here in Chicago.

Here’s your daily recap from the Chicago Board of Trade.

Are You F#$%ing Kidding Me Russia?

You might recall our famous headline about the impact of record Russian wheat exports and production on global wheat prices.

But today’s news brings a whole new meaning to this question.

According to reports, a radioactive form of ruthenium 106, a radioactive metal, has been discovered in the Ural mountains of Russia. The presence is 986 times higher than normal levels.

And it’s a sign that a nuclear incident likely occurred in September. Though the Russian government has denied that any incident has taken place, the French nuclear safety institute IRSN has been concerned about problems for more than a week. [1]

INTL FCStone chief commodities economist Arlan Suderman has said that the radiation levels aren’t high enough yet to “create human or environmental risks.”

However, we know that the words “nuclear” and “grains” don’t go well together. Events like this have the potential to raise geopolitical concerns and affect the grain markets the same way that geopolitical tensions affect the oil and natural gas markets.

Suderman told Agrimoney that traders were reducing their short positions on the news.

Wheat Prices Push Higher

In Chicago, December SRW contracts added 2.75 cents and closed the day a tick under $4.27.

The March 2018 contract added 2.75 cents and closed at $4.4125.

Down in Kansas City, December HRW contracts had a better day, adding 4.25 cents to close a tick above $4.20. The March 2018 contract added 4 cents to close just under $4.38.

In Minneapolis, spring wheat gains were a bit muted. The December MGEX contract added 0.75 cents to close at $6.27. The March contract added 1.5 cents to close at $6.4125.

While the chatter about radiation was largely chatter on the floor, yesterday’s crop progress report certainly earned attention. Yesterday, the USDA reported that the winter wheat crop was 88% emerged. It also indicated that the crop was rated 52% good-to-excellent.

That figure was a 2 point decline from last week.

December Corn Prices Remain Flat

Corn traders flipping that December contract could have just stayed home. Though prices have been pushing higher from seasonal lows in recent sessions, the December contract closed the day unchanged at $3.45.

The March 2018 contract slipped 0.25 cents to close the day at a tick above $3.56.

The downturn came after the USDA reported that the harvest is now 90% complete. Farmers certainly have caught up from the lag we saw in recent weeks.

However, just three states are 97% or higher.

January Soybean Prices Can’t Break $9.90

Soybean prices also fell on the day. The January contract shed a penny to close the day at $9.89. The March contract dipped one cent to finish just above $10.00.

In Winnipeg, canola contracts were also in the red. January 2018 contracts shed CAD $0.90 to close at CAD $515.10.

Markets didn’t seem too impressed by the news that China purchased another 130,000 metric tonnes, according to the USDA ordering system. Traders seemed more interested in the weekly crop progress report. Yesterday, the USDA reported that the harvest is 96% complete. Seven states are now at 100%.

However, on the eastern portion of the Midwest, we’re seeing wet weather hold up progress. Indiana is 87% complete. But the real delays are in Wisconsin (69%) and Michigan (76%).

What’s Happening at Thanksgiving

We’re operating here in Chicago on a different schedule than our FarmLead team in Ottawa.

Canadian Thanksgiving took place back in October, and our neighbors to the north don’t spend their Fridays standing outside of department stores for seven hours to get a television on sale…

Tomorrow, grain futures trading ends at 1:20 p.m. CST.

On Thursday, U.S. markets are closed.

On Friday, markets open at 8:30 a.m. CST and close early at 12:05 CST. This will probably be too late to still get to Target to purchase a blender for $3.99.

About the Author
Garrett Baldwin

Garrett Baldwin is a content strategist and editor at FarmLead. He covers the global grain markets and public policy issues related to the agricultural industry. He is a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. He also holds a Master’s Degree in Economic Policy from The Johns Hopkins University, an MS in Agricultural Economics from Purdue University, and an MBA in Finance from Indiana University.

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