Chicago Grains Fall, Corn Fares Best On Opening Day Of 2015

02/01/15 -- Soycomplex: Beans and meal closed with some fairly sizable losses to start the new year. Both also finished the day close to session lows, with nearby beans ending not far off the first sub-$10 close since early December. Weekly soybean export sales came in at 611,000 MT of old crop and zero on new crop. The old crop sales were 6 percent below the previous week, and down 25 percent from the prior 4-week average. Actual shipments were 1,065,900 MT. Accumulated season-to-date exports are now 28 MMT, with a further 14.3 MMT of outstanding sales. That takes total net commitments to 88.3% of the USDA target for the season. The weather outlook for Brazil is mixed for the week ahead. "Mato Grosso (the country's top soybean state) faces a dry forecast along with other tropical states Goias, Minas Gerais, Tocantins and Bahia, all soybean producing areas. The new 7-day forecast is hopeful for rain in Parana, Brazil's second top soybean state. Excessively heavy rainfall is predicted in Rio Grande do Sul. Up to 6 times the normal rainfall is possible, with 250 mm at the high end," said Martell Crop Projections. Jan 15 Soybeans closed at $10.02 1/2, down 16 3/4 cents; Mar 15 Soybeans closed at $10.07 1/2, down 16 cents; Jan 15 Soybean Meal closed at $356.50, down $8.10; Jan 15 Soybean Oil closed at 31.95, down 2 points. For the week, beans shed 40 cents, meal lost $23.20 and oil fell 51 points.

Corn: The corn market closed around a cent or two lower. Increased farmer selling was noted today, an interesting development on the first trading day of the year, especially as prices are now below $4/bushel which has hitherto proven to be the cut off point in producer interest. Weekly export sales came in at 895,100 MT for 2014/15, down 46 percent from the previous week and 20 percent below the prior 4-week average. This was still a respectable total for a holiday week though. Actual shipments came in at 667,800 MT. Total exports for the season to date are now 12.1 MMT, with a further 14.8 MMT of outstanding sales. That takes total net commitments for 2014/15 to 26.9 MMT, which is 60.4% of the USDA target for the season. The USDA also announced 210,000 MT of corn sold to Japan for 2015/16 shipment under the daily reporting system. Whilst the corn market continues to do it's best to ignore the alarming slump in crude oil values, they can hardly be considered to be a supportive factor. Crude began 2015 where it left off 2014, in the red. Tonight's official NYMEX close of $52.69/barrel is the lowest close in more than five and a half years. UkrAgroConsult trimmed their forecast for Russia's 2014/15 corn exports from 3.8 MMT to 3.0 MMT. They also see lower wheat and barley exports than previously expected. US dollar strength remains a negative influence for the entire US grains sector. Mar 15 Corn closed at $3.95 3/4, down 1 1/4 cents; May 15 Corn closed at $4.04 1/2, down 1 1/4 cents. For the week Mar 14 corn lost 19 cents, or 4.6%, in value.

Wheat: The wheat market closed lower on the day, and for the week, across all three exchanges. The best that can be said of today's performance is that wheat did at least manage to close reasonably well above session lows. Weekly export sales of 354,100 MT for 2014/15 (there were also sales of 18,000 MT for 2015/16) were fair given the recent performance, but hardly pulled up any trees. Actual shipments of 150,100 MT were however poor, being down 61 percent from the previous week and 62 percent below the prior 4-week average. If we are being kind, we can put this down to it being a holiday week. If we are not, then we can put it down to the strong dollar simply making US wheat too expensive compared to other origins. Total shipments for the season so far are now at 13.3 MMT, with a further 5.2 MMT worth of outstanding sales. That takes net 2014/15 commitments to 18.5 MMT, which is 72.5% of the USDA's target for the season. There's talk of Pakistan looking to enter the world wheat market as a seller. The Ukraine Ministry reported that 18% of winter crops in the country are in poor condition, which is 10 points above a year ago. UkrAgroConsult trimmed their outlook on Russian 2014/15 wheat exports by 2.3 MMT to 20 MMT, and reduced their forecast for barley shipments by 1 MMT to 3.3 MMT. China are due to auction 2 MMT of government owned wheat stocks starting Tuesday next week. Mar 15 CBOT Wheat closed at $5.81 1/4, down 8 1/2 cents; Mar 15 KCBT Wheat closed at $6.17, down 9 1/2 cents; Mar 15 MGEX Wheat closed at $6.11, down 11 cents. For the week Chicago wheat lost 25 1/2 cents, or 4.8%; KCBT wheat was down 27 1/4 cents; MGEX wheat ended 20 1.2 cents lower.

EU Grains Begin 2015 In The Red

02/01/15 -- EU grains began the new year pretty much as they ended the old year, in the red. Fresh news remains light in another holiday shortened week.

The day ended with Jan 15 London wheat down GBP1.70/tonne to GBP131.70/tonne, Jan 15 Paris wheat was EUR2.00/tonne lower at EUR198.00/tonne, Jan 15 Paris corn was EUR5.75/tonne easier at EUR156.75/tonne, whilst Feb 15 Paris rapeseed ended EUR3.25/tonne weaker at EUR347.75/tonne.

For the week that puts London wheat down GBP3.65/tonne, in Paris wheat fell EUR3.00/tonne, corn was down EUR4.75/tonne and rapeseed slumped EUR5.75/tonne.

Comments from from Mario Draghi, the president of the European Central Bank, in an interview with the German newspaper Handelsblatt hinting at further QE in the eurozone in 2015 look like keeping the euro under pressure in the coming months. Meanwhile uncertainty in the UK, with a general election now only 4 months away, and David Cameron already on the campaign trail might not do the pound too much good either.

Both currencies were down against the US dollar today, with sterling putting in its lowest close against the US currency since August 2013. The euro meanwhile posted its lowest against the resurgent greenback since mid-2010. Uncertainty over the outcome of the Greek election, now little more than 3 weeks away, will add to euro pressure.

The prospect of weakness of both currencies in the months ahead may add some support to EU grains, relative to those across the Pond at least, in Q1 of 2015.

That should help keep demand for EU wheat buoyant, although the pace of exports relative to a year ago has slackened off in recent weeks.

Certainly the new Russian export duty won't do any harm to help that cause. UkrAgroConsult cut their forecast for Russian wheat exports in 2014/15 to 20 MMT from 22.3 MMT today, although still higher than 18.3 MMT in 2013/14. They also trimmed 1 MMT off their Russian barley export estimate to 3.3 MMT, and cut corn exports from 3.8 MMT to 3.0 MMT.

The Ukraine Ministry meanwhile reported that, as of Dec 25, 41% of their winter crops are in good condition, down from 57% a year ago. The proportion rated in poor condition is 18% versus 8% a year ago.

How winter grains emerge from dormancy in the spring in both those key exporting countries, and the effect that the acute weakness of both domestic currencies and the lack of available credit will have on spring input purchases will also be an important factor in determining which way grain prices go in 2015.

Chicago Grains 2014 Close

31/12/14 -- Soycomplex: Beans closed with losses of around 18-20 cents to end the year. Volume and fresh news was lacking, as you might expect. Beans close 2014 almost $3, or more than 22%, lower than they began it. Meal has lost $73, or nearly 17%, of it's value in this time. Soybean oil is down the best part of 700 points, or nearly 18%. On the day "soybeans tumbled for third straight session as weaker cash markets, slowing export demand and mostly favourable South American weather forecast have funds adding to short positions," said Benson Quinn. Demand is showing signs of starting to switch to South America. Weather developments there may be the main driver over the next few months, whilst they've already started harvesting some very early beans in Brazil's Mato Grosso, they're only around 75% planted in Argentina. With bumper production prospects for 2015, the market will be nervous of any signs of a possible slowdown in demand from China, who the world is relying on to account for almost two thirds of global trade in soybeans in 2014/15. Note that soybeans traditionally put in an early calendar year low in late January or early February - the February break or "John Deere Low". This was set on Jan 29 in 2014, Jan 13 in 2012 and Feb 3 in 2010 (but didn't really happen in 2011). Jan 15 Soybeans closed at $10.19 1/4, down 18 1/2 cents; Mar 15 Soybeans closed at $10.23 1/2, down 20 1/2 cents; Jan 15 Soybean Meal closed at $364.60, down $4.90; Jan 15 Soybean Oil closed at 31.97, down 92 points.

Corn: The corn market closed the best part of 10 cents lower. For the year corn is down 73 cents, or nearly 17% versus Dec 31, 2013. "Corn seemed to be the loss leader today as market tumbled through its 20-day moving average and fell below $4 in the front month March contract for first time since December 12," said Benson Quinn. Dollar strength continues to dog export hopes/ambitions. China finally approving MIR 162 corn for import should be a supportive factor, although they seem to be buying more sorghum than corn at the moment. Weekly US ethanol production data from the Energy Dept shows output down 20,000 barrels/day compared to last week's record to 972,000 bpd. Crude oil prices continue to fall, with NYMEX WTI crude down 46% compared to last New Year's Eve, and ending the year more than 50% off the summer highs. Corn is doing it's best to ignore that bearish influence, helped by the ethanol mandate. Heavy rains in central and southern Brazil, along with many parts of Argentina should be friendly for corn production there in 2014/15. The seasonal chart for corn shows a general gradual appreciation in price through most of the first half of the year, with a peak in June (although this happened on Apr 29 in 2014), followed by a slump into the harvest lows. These are frequently set in early October (Sep 30 in 2014). Mar 15 Corn closed at $3.97, down 9 1/2 cents; May 15 Corn closed at $4.05 3/4, down 9 1/4 cents.

Wheat: "The wheat market closed lower as Russian wheat export tariff becomes an old story as the world still remains well supplied with wheat," said Benson Quinn. Still, out of the three main agri-commodities, wheat has fared the best price-wise in 2014. Chicago wheat ends the year only 15 1/2 cents lower than it began it, for a net 2.6% loss versus Dec 31, 2013. Kansas wheat is down 2.2% and Minneapolis down 2% year-on-year. Rusagrotrans estimated Russia's Jan 2015 grain exports at 1.5 MMT, a drop of around 45% compared to December. That total would however still be a bit higher than the 1.14 MMT exported in Jan 2014, and the 1.34 MMT shipped out in Jan 2013. Exports should drop off sharply in February when the new export tax kicks in. MDA CropCast cut their forecast for the US 2015/16 all wheat crop by 0.8 MMT from last week. "Some spotty winterkill has occurred in south central Nebraska, north central Kansas, and southeastern Colorado," due to cold, they said. Losses are not widespread though, they added. Market influences for 2015 will come from Russia's export curbs, and how crops there and in Ukraine come though winter. Also farmers' ability to fund spring plantings and purchase inputs due to the sharp falls seen in their respective currencies will be another factor to keep an eye on. The seasonal study shows the early highs of the year in Chicago wheat frequently set in Mar and May, just as they were in 2014. Mar 15 CBOT Wheat closed at $5.89 3/4, down 12 1/4 cents; Mar 15 KCBT Wheat closed at $6.26 1/2, down 9 1/2 cents; Mar 15 MGEX Wheat closed at $6.22, down 5 1/4 cents.

EU Grains End With Yearly Losses, But Maybe Not As Bad As You Might Think

31/12/14 -- EU grains finished a predictably quiet, low volume, day mixed. At the finish Jan 15 London wheat was down GBP0.55/tonne at GBP133.30/tonne, Jan 15 Paris wheat was EUR0.25/tonne easier at EUR200.00/tonne, Jan 15 Paris corn was up EUR4.75/tonne at EUR162.50/tonne and Feb 15 Paris rapeseed ended EUR3.75/tonne lower at EUR351.00/tonne.

For the year, that puts London wheat a little over GBP30/tonne lower than where it was twelve months ago, for a year-on-year decline of 18.6%. Paris wheat has fared considerably better, losing only EUR9/tonne over the course of 2014, for a net loss of only 4.3%.

Paris corn ends 2014 with an EUR9.25/tonne loss, or 5.4%. Paris rapeseed meanwhile is down EUR15.50, or 4.2%, during the course of 2014.

I suspect that these relatively modest yearly falls for the Paris grains surprise you, as they did me.

Part of the reason behind that is of course euro weakness, rather than sterling strength, with the pound having risen steadily against the single currency throughout almost the whole of 2014.

Sterling ends the year with a net gain of around 7% versus the euro. Conversely it's fallen around 5.5% compared to the US dollar versus the end of 2013, although that really only tells half the story. The pound has actually shed more than 9% of it's value against the greenback compared to the summer highs of close to 1.72 versus the US dollar.

The big stories of the year have really all been about record global wheat, corn, soybean and rapeseed crops in 2014/15, which drove down prices to 4-year lows at harvest time. These records were actually back-to-back records, as production of all four of these grains/oilseeds followed previous all time highs in 2013/14.

If you're an arable farmer, things might not look too great right now, but they're a whole lot better than they were just a few months ago. You can also console yourself with the thought that at least you're not an oil baron!

For the record, London wheat actually ends the year almost 24% above the post harvest closing low of GBP107.65/tonne set in late September. In Paris, wheat is up 33%, corn up 24% and rapeseed is 14% higher than the closing lows of the year.

NYMEX crude incidentally is down 46% compared to last New Year's Eve, and ends the year more than 50% off the summer highs.

Perhaps the other big story of 2014 concerns Russia, firstly "acquiring" Crimea, then setting off the subsequent chain of events (combined with the slump in global crude oil values) that has seen the rouble fall off a cliff and the subsequent recent introduction of an export duty on wheat.

What will 2015 bring? More volatility looks like being the only thing that can be predicted with any degree of confidence. Will production levels in 2015 set records for the third year in a row? You'd probably have to think that some crop calamity is overdue, but only time will tell....

Chicago Grains Closing Comments - Tuesday

30/12/14 -- Soycomplex: Beans closed lower, after trading higher earlier, in what looks like year end profit-taking and book squaring. Floods in Malaysia are said to be threatening to reduce palm oil output. Strong demand from China continues. They are expected to import around 7.6 MMT of soybeans in December, and a further 6.5 MMT in January. Seasonally, imports then start to drop off to coincide with Chinese New Year. South American weather leans favourable. Argentine soybean planting is now 90.6% complete, up 9.4 points on last week, said the Buenos Aires Grain Exchange. They held steady with their forecast for 2014/15 plantings of 20.6 million hectares, up 600,000 ha from a year ago. Canadian canola exports for the first 20 weeks of the 2014/15 season are 3.48 MMT, a 16% rise versus a year ago. Jan 15 Soybeans closed at $10.37 3/4, down 4 cents; Mar 15 Soybeans closed at $10.44, down 4 3/4 cents; Jan 15 Soybean Meal closed at $369.50, down $7.90; Jan 15 Soybean Oil closed at 32.89, up 10 points.

Corn: The corn market closed around 6 cents lower. Fund money is preparing to "rebalance" their positions early in the new year, with some suggesting that they need to sell around a net 20,000 corn contracts. China are said to be about to start auctioning off corn, beginning with an offer of around 3-5 MMT in the first week of January. They've been buying large volumes of sorghum recently instead. Yesterday's weekly export sales total of 584,300 MT was the largest single weekly sorghum sales total in 19 years, and was 77% above the previous 4 week average. China (357,300 MT) and "unknown" (presumed to be China, taking 227,000 MT) were the sole buyers. Weekly US sorghum shipments of 323,900 MT were all to China. The USDA announced 157,500 MT of US corn sold to Mexico for 2014/15 shipment. The Buenos Aires Grain Exchange reported Argentine corn for grain planting at 74.5% complete, up 9 points on last week. They forecast the planted area down 21% at 3 million hectares. Mar 15 Corn closed at $4.06 1/2, down 6 1/4 cents; May 15 Corn closed at $4.15, down 6 1/4 cents.

Wheat: The wheat market closed with double digit losses. Year end profit-taking was a likely feature. US wheat prices are seen generally being too expensive to win much export interest, a notion backed up by yesterday's weekly sales total of less than 300 TMT. US wheat did manage to win a share of Iraq's 200 TMT hard wheat purchase though, even if at $333.87 CIFFO it was the most expensive in the line-up. Canada reported wheat shipments (excluding durum) were up 2% at 6.54 MMT during the first 20 weeks of the 2014/15 season. The Buenos Aires Grain Exchange reported a 12 percentage point rise in Argentine wheat harvesting to 87.7% complete. They held steady with their production forecast at 11.5 MMT, although noted that they might reduce that a little if the current drop in yields being observed in southern La Pampa and Buenos Aires continues for a few more days. Part of the anticipated index fund rebalancing early in the new year might see them selling some wheat. China are also expected to start auctioning off around 2 MMT of government owned wheat stocks January 6-8th. Mar 15 CBOT Wheat closed at $6.02, down 13 1/2 cents; Mar 15 KCBT Wheat closed at $6.36, down 11 1/2 cents; Mar 15 MGEX Wheat closed at $6.27 1/4, down 10 cents.

EU Grains Mostly Lower, Weak Euro Supports Paris Wheat

30/12/14 -- EU grains drifted mostly lower heading into year end. Trade was predictably thin, and fresh news was lacking.

At the close Jan 15 London wheat was down GBP1.10/tonne at GBP133.85/tonne, Jan 15 Paris wheat was up EUR0.25/tonne to EUR200.25/tonne, Jan 15 Paris corn was EUR1.00/tonne lower at EUR157.75/tonne, whilst Feb 15 Paris rapeseed was EUR0.50/tonne easier at EUR354.75/tonne.

The euro fell close to it's lowest level against the pound in 18 months on renewed talk of a Greek debt default, with a general election there now less than a month away.

Greece's radical left Syriza party is leading in the opinion polls, and they say that "austerity will be history" if they win on Jan 25.

The weak euro was supportive for French wheat, as too was the notion that the newly introduced Russian wheat export duty will push more interest towards the EU, and France in particular.

Current bad weather conditions (snow and ice) in the Black Sea region is said to be causing disruptions to shipping.

Iraq bought 200 TMT of hard wheat in a tender, mixed one cargo each of Australian and US origin material and two from Canada. The prices paid were between USD325.93 and USD333.87 on a CIFFO basis.

Turkey bought 26 TMT of barley at between USD234-235/tonne C&F for January delivery.

Algeria are tendering for 50 TMT of optional origin milling wheat for Mar/Apr shipment.

Heading towards the end of what seems like another very volatile year, the HGCA interestingly say that whilst London wheat prices have varied by more than GBP60/tonne this year, that is in fact the second smallest price fluctuation range since 2007.

Chicago Grains Closing Comments - Monday

29/12/14 -- Soycomplex: Beans and meal closed with small losses on the day. Weekly export sales for beans came in at 635,800 MT for 2014/15 and a further 1,501,600 MT for 2015/16. China took 618,200 MT of the old crop and 1.5 MMT of the new crop. Weekly shipments of almost 2.4 MMT were robust once again. Old crop commitments are now 89% of the USDA target for the season versus around 80% normally. Weekly export inspections came in at 1.42 MMT, which was maybe a bit lower than the trade expected, although this is of course for a holiday week. It looks like US exports are starting to drop off, with reports coming in of early harvest activity in Brazil's western Mato Grosso. Early yield reports are "very impressive" according to Dr Cordonnier. "Farmers are attributing the high yields to the near perfect weather and a lack of disease and insect pressure," he says. There's now some talk of the 2014/15 Brazilian soybean harvest pushing the 100 MMT mark. The USDA are currently at 94 MMT. Jan 15 Soybeans closed at $10.41 3/4, down 5 3/4 cents; Mar 15 Soybeans closed at $10.48 3/4, down 5 1/4 cents; Jan 15 Soybean Meal closed at $377.40, down $2.30; Jan 15 Soybean Oil closed at 32.79, up 33 points.

Corn: The corn market closed around a couple of cents lower. That came despite weekly export sales of an impressive 1.7 MMT, around double what the trade had been anticipating. That helped total net commitments to reach around 59% of the USDA target for the season, which is in line with average. Actual shipments came in at just under 800 TMT. Weekly export inspections were 609,613 MT, which isn't too bad for a holiday week. Ukraine's seaports shipped out an impressive 667.4 TMT of corn in the past week, which is 80% of the weekly grain export total, said APK Inform. Corn exports for the season (to Dec 24) are 6.6 MMT, say the Ukraine Ag Ministry. Russia say that they've exported 1.1 MMT of corn so far this season. Turkey tendered for 100 TMT of corn for Feb/Mar shipment, with Russia and/or Ukraine possibly the most likely favourites to win the business. The Philippines said that they'd harvested a record 7.75 MMT of corn this year, up from 7.37 MMT a year ago. That total almost covers the country's domestic consumption, which is estimated at around 8 MMT this year. Mar 15 Corn closed at $4.12 3/4, down 2 cents; May 15 Corn closed at $4.21 1/4, down 1 3/4 cents.

Wheat: The wheat market closed firmer, but off session highs. Trade reaction to the export duty news out of Russia is mixed. Benson Quinn said that it "is a bearish feature as the execution of trades in the Jan slot will not be interrupted." It remains to be seen whether January shipments do indeed run smoothly, as there has already been some suggestion that Russia will continue to use "additional administrative measures" to prevent excessive grain exports. The Russian Ag Ministry say that these are 30% up on year ago levels as of Dec 24. Weekly US export inspections of only 293,100 MT were pretty poor, indicating that US wheat is less likely to be the leading beneficiary of any disruption to supplies out of the Black Sea. There were further modest sales of 35,500 MT for 2015/16 shipment. Actual shipments of 385,100 MT were down 7 percent from the previous week and 10 percent below the prior 4-week average. Still, total old crop commitments are 72% of the USDA target for the season versus 70% normally. Talk of possible damage to winter wheat crops in southern Russia in particular continue to circulate. Mar 15 CBOT Wheat closed at $6.15 1/2, up 4 3/4 cents; Mar 15 KCBT Wheat closed at $6.47 1/2, up 3 1/4 cents; Mar 15 MGEX Wheat closed at $6.37 1/4, up 5 3/4 cents.

EU Grains Playing Catch Up End Mostly Lower

29/12/14 -- EU grains closed a two-sided session mostly lower. Wheat was still playing catch-up with a US market that closed with significant losses on Christmas Eve.

The day ended with Jan 15 London wheat down GBP0.40/tonne to GBP134.95/tonne, Jan 15 Paris wheat was EUR1.00/tonne lower at EUR200.00/tonne, Jan 15 Paris corn was EUR2.75/tonne easier at EUR158.75/tonne, whilst Feb 15 Paris rapeseed ended up EUR1.75/tonne at EUR355.25/tonne.

The trade is still digesting the news of a Russian wheat export duty of a minimum EUR35/tonne starting Feb 1, 2015. It will probably take until next week for things to settle down, with trade thin and many participants still absent until after the New Year break.

For all the talk of Russian exports being deliberately restricted by red tape in recent weeks, APK Inform said that Russian seaports shipped out 556.1 TMT of grains last week, up from only 282.5 TMT the week before. Wheat accounted for 319.9 TMT (58%) of last week's total, with barley at 177.1 TMT (32%) and corn 56.1 TMT (10%).

The Russian Ag Ministry said that exports had now reached 20.4 MMT, a 30% increase on year ago levels. That total includes 16 MMT of wheat, 3.1 MMT of barley and 1.1 MMT of corn.

Offers out of Russia for Feb onwards are now said to be non-existent, with traders appearing to want to concentrate their efforts on shipping what they've already got sold in January.

Ukraine seaports meanwhile exported 829.6 MMT of grains last week, APK Inform said. Unlike Russia, they are now majoring in corn, which accounted for 80% of that total.

Their Ag Ministry said that exports so far this season (to Dec 24) are slightly behind Russia's at 18.2 MMT, of which 7.9 MMT is wheat, 6.6 MMT corn and 3.6 MMT barley.

So Russia's participation as a wheat seller looks to be more or less over between now and the end of June. Ukraine are concentrating their efforts on corn. That should be good news for EU wheat.

Kazakhstan said that their 2014 grain harvest came in at 17 MMT, a 6.6% decline on last year.

India said that growers there had planted 27.96 million hectares of wheat, which is behind last year's pace when 28.69 million ha had been sown.

Turkey tendered for 100 TMT of optional origin corn for Feb/Mar shipment.

Chicago Grains: Christmas Review

27/12/14 -- We'll start off with a quick summary of the week, just in case the entire thing passed you by...

Jan 15 Soybeans closed Monday at $10.38 1/4, up 7 3/4 cents; Tuesday $10.38 1/2, up 1/4 cent; Wednesday $10.28 3/4, down 9 3/4 cents; Friday $10.47 1/2, up 18 3/4 cents. Net change for the week is up 17 cents.

Jan 15 Soymeal closed at $368.40, up $4.90; $371.30, up $2.90; $371.40, up 10 cents; $379.70, up $6.30. Net change for the week, up $16.20.

Jan 15 Soybean Oil closed at 32.04, up 7 points; 32.22, up 18 points; 31.93, down 29 points; 32.46, up 53 points. Net change up 49 points.

Mar 15 Corn closed at $4.11 3/4, up 1 1/4 cents; $4.14, up 2 1/4 cents; $4.07 3/4, down 6 1/4 cents; $4.14 3/4, up 7 cents. Net change up 4 1/4 cents.

Mar 15 Wheat closed at $6.25 3/4, down 6 1/2 cents; $6.35 1/2, up 9 3/4 cents; $6.11 1/2, down 24 cents; $6.10 3/4, down 3/4 of a cent. Net change down 21 1/2 cents.

For the record, Mar 15 Kansas wheat finished with a net loss of 21 3/4 cents for the week, and Mar 15 Minneapolis wheat was down 16 3/4 cents.

Weekly export sales from the USDA, usually released on a Thursday, are delayed until Monday due to the holiday. The regular Friday weekly commitment of traders report is also due for release Monday. Fresh news was relatively scarce, and trade was thin, as you might imagine. Beans, and oil all posted decent gains for the week, corn managed modest advances and wheat was lower, courtesy of a Christmas Eve rout. This may have been linked to profit-taking, and was possibly overdone due to the lack of participants. Fund money was given credit for being a net seller of around 2,500 Chicago wheat on the day, a modest volume that wouldn't normally see a 24 cents collapse. Kansas and Minneapolis wheat saw losses of around 20 cents that day too.

Despite the continued collapse in crude oil values, down more than 4% again last week, weekly US ethanol production came in at a record high 992k barrels/day last week - the fourth record week in the past five. Grain prices are becoming divorced from crude oil, and this appears to be directly linked to the "incentive for the world to use more grain based ethanol to meet inclusion mandates" say the HGCA.

There's talk of $40/barrel being the level at which Saudi Arabia might reach for the panic button and start choking off excess supply in the market. NYMEX crude closed below $55/barrel on Friday, so we are now only $15/barrel away from being there, and it's only taken a month to lose that much on the way down to where the market currently stands, so we might get to $40/barrel sooner than the Saudi's think.

Russia apparently confirmed on Christmas Day that the level set for the much talked about export duty on wheat would be a minimum of EUR35/tonne, which is about USD43/tonne, starting Feb 1. Yet the US wheat markets closed around unchanged on Friday. Was this "buy the rumour, sell the fact" or simply that what few traders were at their desks were unaware of this apparently significant development? Monday's trade might give us the answer to that one.

Russian news agency TASS says that Russia has agreed to provide Egypt with 120 TMT worth of wheat before the new rules kick in. To me that would appear to suggest, reading between the lines, that it will not be a free-for-all export deluge between now and the end of next month. It looks like the current unofficial "red tape" export restrictions will persist depending on who the buyer is (and maybe even despite who they are).

TASS say that Russia is the third largest wheat supplier to Egypt, accounting for 26% of their imports across the last 6 months. The largest is France (36%) followed by Romania (27%). The EU then certainly look well placed to be the main beneficiary of this new wheat Iron Export Curtain coming down, assuming that they can come up with the quality (France) and/or volume (Romania) required.

The Buenos Aires Grain Exchange said that Argentina's 2014/15 wheat harvest is now past 75% complete. They estimate production unchanged from previously at 11.5 MMT, which is up nicely on a year ago. Neighbouring Brazil will be in the market for most, if not all, of their surplus though, meaning that not much of it is likely to travel as far afield as North Africa or beyond. Happy New Year France!