After persistent rain-delayed spring planting, a clearing window allowed its completion – and consistently excellent crop-development weather has prevailed since. On May 18 U.S. planting was decidedly behind average pace, verging on price bullishness, but only a week later it had leapt ahead. About 90% of the Corn Belt received normal to above-average spring rainfall, which together with moderate temperatures has supercharged growth progress. The result is no less than a sea change in prices which have been kept high in recent years by harvests lagging amid demand growth.
Markets did not do a whole lot for most of the month until the stocks and acreage report on the last trading day of the month/quarter. It was easy to get chopped around, and I did. I was having a hard time staying with any positions or ideas. New crop beans wouldn’t break and old […]
Early 20th century British economist John Keynes famously stated “the market can remain irrational longer than you can stay solvent.” Lately, the agricultural markets have been defying logic and testing the solvency of many. A variety of market forces have been driving the meat and grain markets. With some key USDA reports closing up the first half of the trading year, the markets are celebrating the upcoming holiday with some fireworks of their own.
After three consecutive quarters of much-greater-than-expected demand for U.S. corn and soybeans, confounding every analyst’s projections and strengthening current-year prices sharply, a turn to excellent planting and growing weather in Northern Hemisphere abruptly collapsed forward prices for corn, wheat, and to a lesser extent soybeans. We confess bewilderment as to why, with world demand this year so vastly larger than expected, forward price should not be well-supported by demand continuing on this surprisingly steep trajectory.
All markets made new lows on favorable weather. Old crop beans rallied early in the week but cash turned weak and liquidation was seen ahead of the Goldman roll. Corn crop ratings were issued and were some of the best ever to start the growing season. Chicago continued into the abyss with demand lacking,harvest ahead, and generally favorable crops around the world. KC made new lows but bounced later in the week on poor harvest results/low crop ideas.
At the turn of the year the “consensus” was that corn was going lower, Bond prices were going lower (yields Higher) and the meats were going irregularly higher. Five + months into 2014, the bonds have rallied over 10 points and the funds have gone from being short 230,000 contracts of corn to being long 340,000+ contracts as of the beginning of May It took them over a dollar in price rally to get there but here we are! Now they are long, I think at an interim or possible top of the price action? Subsequent action since the May 9th report only reinforces my perception of that. What lies ahead is a chasm of time and future price discovery.
We know it is early as CTAs are still computing their monthly returns for May. With some early reports and our own proprietary tool Insight, we are seeing gains of >1% for the month of May. With continued downtrend in VIX (at or below 14) many managers trading indexes have been steady but under performing the overall broader S&P 500 index. Whereas managers trading commodities, such as coffee, cocoa, corn, soybeans, wheat, crude…just to name a few have seen a completely different story. Our interpretation is we will see a continued trend in volatility with respect to commodities and continued uptrend in equity indexes (past performance not indicative of future results). That being said, this upward trend in the indexes is going to pull back one of these days. The duration and extent are anyone’s guess. Now is the time to be more aware of “too much of a good thing”. The strength of this bull market for indexes has lasted quite some time.
Slightly negative results for the month extend a run of near-flat returns as most of the main economic themes identified by the managers showed little reaction. The position in which we had substantially expanded our risk and volume was held as long as possible, until late on “last position day” prior to physical delivery, and still did not bear fruit. Our policy is to not hold overnight positions during the delivery period so as not to expose investors to large, albeit temporary, margin calls.Our “bullspread” strategy in corn – i.e., long nearby and short deferred – was based on projection that U.S. producers would tend to market supply slowly since they had already taken much income from selling soybeans and would wait rather than liquidate all 2013-14 production within a narrow timeframe. Our forecast of demand for U.S. corn was aggressive, as Argentine farmers held back supply for financial reasons and Brazil deemphasized exports to make sure it met soybean commitments.
We are a little over half way through May and have approximately two-thirds of our CTAs updated through the month of April. Overall the index is flat and carried by agriculture and equity index manager trading for the month. Trend Following is so far posting a negative month with 73% of managers reporting. So overall on the year we are off to a moderate start as we get deeper into the second quarter. Without any significant trends we expect to see much of the same as the equity markets continue on the bull run. Agriculture should be particularly interesting as we head into planting season and this pig virus continues to play itself out.
Demeter Capital Management is a registered CTA with a Livestock and Grain Trading Futures and Options Program. The Livestock and Grain Trading Program attempts to generate profits through the Advisor’s discretionary selection of futures and options trades in agricultural markets. Trades are selected on the basis of fundamental analysis, which is concerned with any factor that would affect the supply and demand, and therefore the price, of a given instrument. The Advisor’s market analysis tends to focus on seasonal trends and year-to-year comparisons. The Advisor absorbs and interprets a wide range of research on a daily basis, employing its principals’s combined 40+ years of experience in agricultural futures markets.
Quite a whippy week. Beans and wheat broke hard earlier in the week. Wheat broke on wetter forecasts and beans broke on all the distressed China cargos and import talk. Funds liquidated flat price beans and exited spreads. There was major unwinding going on. As the week wore on, there were more and more reports of wheat being ripped up (both HRW and SRW) as well as escalating tensions between Ukraine and Russia which provided support. Both US and Brazilian bean basis firmed, we continue to see positive bean and meal sales weeks, and crush margins remain strong – all providing support to old crop beans.
Futures trading is a fast-paced, exciting business that attracts confident and assertive men and women who are convinced they can make a fortune, or at least a good side income, in one of the many futures contracts on the market. Some make it; many don’t. The percentage of self-directed traders who fail is exceptionally high. […]
Commodity Trading Advisors, or CTAs, as they are commonly referred to have long been pigeon holed in the Managed Futures industry as professional money managers that trade commodities. Most people liken them to what they see in the movies. The reputation is that these are free wielding traders that have unlimited risk appetite in search of making a fortune. It may be true that speculative commodity traders that are depicted in the movies seek out returns that perhaps a novice or capital preserving investor would never be able to stomach, but most professional money managers trading in Managed Futures are seeking a risk/reward profile that appeal to a broader investing community.