* More traders will be in place for 11 a.m. CST release
* Volatile dealings often come with January report
By Mark Weinraub
CHICAGO, Jan 10 The U.S. Agriculture
Department's inaugural midday release of monthly crop data on
Friday could result in heavier-than-usual midday trading in
Chicago grain markets as more investors will be at the ready
when the data goes public, traders said.
The USDA, which has been issuing its monthly reports at 7:30
a.m. CST (1330 GMT) for nearly two decades, decided last year to
push back the release to 11 a.m. CST (1700 GMT) when trading at
the Chicago Board of Trade grain markets is usually in full
"I actually think it will be a lot better," said Justin
Lewis, vice president of KIS Futures in Oklahoma. "It will allow
the entire country to participate a lot more actively."
Following the last two monthly crop reports, 14 percent of
the entire day's trading in the most active CBOT corn, soybean
and wheat contracts had been condensed into the 30 minutes after
the release of the data, according to Reuters data.
The pop in volume could be even bigger on Friday after the
report hits at 11 a.m. CST, as more traders from coast to coast
will be ready to make moves. However, volumes are expected to be
almost nonexistent in the hours heading up to the report.
Traders have had some practice dealing with reports released
when the market is open as the Chicago Board of Trade had
switched to 21-hour trading sessions in May. Since then, there
has been a surge in volume immediately following reports, market
activity would then cool before heating up again at 9:30 a.m.
central, the traditional opening time for trading in the CBOT's
Before CBOT's extended hours, traders had two hours to
process the USDA data and formulate strategies before the market
The report on Friday will provide USDA's final estimate of
the 2012/13 U.S. corn and soybean crops as well as 2013/14 wheat
plantings and estimates of how big domestic grain supplies were
when harvest ended last fall.
The U.S. government's January report is one of the most
anticipated of the year and the market often swings violently
following its release. Corn prices have moved their daily
trading limit in the session after the report hits the market
five out of the last six times.
Volumes have been light so far this week as many traders
already have placed their bets on what direction they think the
market will move after the release.
"Watching the grains markets feels a bit like waiting for
the closing bell back in high school the past few days as the
January USDA report approaches everyone just stares at the clock
waiting," Robert Chesler, vice president and head of the food
service division at INTL-FCStone said in a note.
CBOT corn averaged just 218,885 contracts a day during the
first three days of this week, 24 percent lower than its daily
average during 2012. Soybean volume averaged 149,919 contracts a
day this week, down 27 percent from 2012, and wheat averaged
90,933 trades a day so far this week, 16 percent lower than a
typical day in 2012.
Investors were reluctant to stake out new positions ahead of
the much anticipated report, which should provide fresh
direction to the grain markets and provide plenty of information
for traders to chew through.
"By the time we get to Friday morning, most of the actual
position squaring should be behind us," said Bill Gentry, a
broker with Risk Management Commodities in Lafayette, Indiana.
"This market has been looking for headlines for months."