US corn prices climb on bullish USDA crop acreage estimate report


US corn prices spiked Thursday after the release of a US Department of Agriculture's prospective planting report that showed estimated corn acreage for the 2018-2019 marketing year could be on the lower end of expectations.

S&P Global Platts assessed US corn, CIF New Orleans basis, for April delivery at $4.3475/bu, an increase of 14.25 cents compared with Wednesday. This is the largest jump in front-month prices since August 31, 2017. The front-month basis was unchanged at 47 cents/bu.

US corn acreage for the 2018-19 marketing year was estimated by USDA at 88.026 million acres, a decrease of 2.2% from 89.996 million acres used in 2017-18, according to the report.

The market expected a US corn acreage forecast of between 88.5 million mt and 91 million mt, with most traders pinpointing 89.5 million mt as a specific estimate, according to sources.

"Acreage for both soybeans and corn were lower than the lowest guess in both cases," one market source said.

This is the first year the estimated soybean acreage has surpassed corn as farmers have been switching due to the greater profits, sources said.

The US soybean acreage estimate for the 2018-19 marketing year was 88.982 million acres, a drop of 0.56% from 89.482 million acres in 2017-18, the agency said.

CBOT May soybean futures settled at $10.4475/bu, a 26.75 cent increase compared with Wednesday.

The estimate for the US corn acreage was based on farmer surveys conducted during the first two weeks of March. An estimate based on statistical estimates was released by the USDA in February during its Agriculture Outlook Forum. At that time, the estimate was at 90 million acres.

This bullish report comes at a time when corn prices are coming under pressure from improving weather in major crop producing regions of South America and the US Plains.

The USDA also released a bearish quarterly grain stock report Thursday that was outshone by the planting report.

This report showed corn stocks were above the market's expected range of 8.55 billion bushels to 8.881 billion bushels, according to sources.

Corn stocks on March 1 totaled 8.89 billion bushels (3.5 million mt), 3% above inventories a year earlier, the stock data show.

Corn is the primary feedstock for ethanol production in the US and is the main competitor for dried distillers grains.


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