Analysts' ideas for US soy plantings set stage for surprise -Braun
The opinions expressed here are those of the author, a market analyst for Reuters.
By Karen Braun
NAPERVILLE, Illinois, March 27 (Reuters) -Trade estimates for U.S. corn and soybean plantings ahead of Friday’s notoriously hard-to-predict acreage report may indicate stronger chances for the soy number to surprise versus the corn one.
However, the trade’s recent track record with March corn acres suggests the possibility of a big miss on corn should stay on the table.
On average, analysts peg 2023 U.S. corn plantings at 90.88 million acres and soybeans at 88.24 million acres, up 2.6% and 0.9%, respectively, from last year.
Traders will be comparing these numbers with the ones published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s statistics service on Friday, which will represent the first survey-based estimates of 2023 spring crop plantings in the United States.
The 2.3 million-acre range of estimates on soybean acres offers an immediate red flag as it is the narrowest ahead of the March planting report since at least 2007, increasing the odds for an unexpected number. The five-year average range is 4.5 million acres, including 6.2 million last year and 5.5 million in 2021.
Analysts have not given themselves room to the downside on soybeans. Of the 26 estimates collected by Reuters, only one predicted lower soybean acres than last year’s 87.45 million, and that one estimate was only marginally lower.
March soybean acres have not landed outside the range of estimates since 2018. But USDA’s March corn intentions have landed outside in six of the last seven years, skipping only 2018, which is why a corn surprise is still in play for Friday.
Fortunately, analysts have created a bigger buffer than normal with a corn estimate range of 4.4 million acres, the largest since 2009. That compares with an average of 3.05 million over the last seven years, including a high of 3.9 million in 2020.
It is important to note that the trade range statistics – highest for corn in 14 years and lowest for soybeans in more than 16 years – are true in both absolute and percentage terms.
Analysts are confident on the upside to corn plantings versus 2022, as just one of 26 analysts predicted lower corn acres than last year’s 88.6 million, and that same analyst is the only sub-90 million guess.
If the trade misses corn and/or soybean acres on Friday, it is a toss-up as to which miss could be larger. On average over the last five years, analysts’ March corn and soy acreages have each deviated by 2.2% from the end-of-March USDA figures.
When evaluating feasibility of the trade’s U.S. acreage estimates, the assumed combination of corn and soy, the United States’ two largest crops, must be considered.
The average corn and soy trade guesses combine to 179.1 million acres, up from 176.03 million last year, when excessive springtime moisture in the northwestern Corn Belt prevented farmers from planting full intentions.
That would be the third-largest corn-plus-soy area on record after 2017 and 2021, when combined acres each surpassed 180 million. Analysts have overestimated corn-plus-soy acres in recent Marches, but 179.1 million is their smallest in four years.
USDA’s Outlook Forum last month tentatively pegged 2023 U.S. corn and soy acres at 91 million and 87.5 million, respectively, combining for 178.5 million. Analysts’ recent estimates have allocated fewer acres to wheat in 2023 at 48.85 million versus USDA at 49.5 million, allowing more room for corn-plus-soy.
USDA’s wheat area would be a seven-year high and up more than 8% from last year, the biggest year-on-year rise in wheat plantings since 1996. Seventeen of 24 estimates collected by Reuters call for wheat acres below 49.5 million, and all reflect a rise versus last year.
Nine of 23 analysts predict spring wheat plantings below last year’s 10.84 million acres, and eight of 23 see lighter durum acres this year versus last.
Karen Braun is a market analyst for Reuters. Views expressed above are her own.
Graphic- Trade biases for U.S. soybean acres in Marchhttps://tmsnrt.rs/3nnRwY2
Graphic- Trade biases for U.S. corn acres in Marchhttps://tmsnrt.rs/3ZtfLkY
Writing by Karen Braun
Editing by Matthew Lewis
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