Column: Funds pad CBOT corn, soy longs on smaller U.S. crops and Argentine drought

Corn plants are seen at sunset in a farm near Rafaela
Corn plants are seen at sunset in a farm near Rafaela, Argentina, April 9, 2018. REUTERS/Marcos Brindicci/File Photo

NAPERVILLE, Ill., Jan 22 (Reuters) - Speculators cranked up bullish bets in Chicago-traded corn and soybeans last week as U.S. government data revealed smaller domestic crops than analysts expected, keeping supply scenarios tight through at least mid-year.

Ongoing drought in Argentina also enticed fund buying last week in corn, soybeans and soybean meal, forcing another managed money record in the latter.

Money managers' extension of net longs in CBOT corn, soybeans and meal in the week ended Jan. 17 was the result of new gross longs, which were especially numerous in corn and beans. All three contracts posted multi-month highs in most-actively traded futures on Jan. 18.

But corn, soybeans and especially meal futures fell Friday as weather models for parched Argentina predicted decent rainfall totals over at least the next week, so funds' recent boost in bullishness may not prove fruitful.

In the four-session week ended Jan. 17, money managers expanded their net long in CBOT soybean futures and options to 168,298 contracts, the largest since April. That was on an increase of more than 36,000 contracts, the most for any week in nearly a year.

Money managers’ new soy long is their strongest ever for mid-January and is close to their January 2021 views. But open interest two years ago was nearly twice as large as today’s levels, which are nine-year lows for the date.

Managed money net position in CBOT soybean futures and options

Open interest in CBOT corn futures and options is at 13-year lows for the time of year after hovering a bit below average during mid-to-late 2022. Investors’ corn views are relatively bullish for the time of year, but less so than in the past two Januarys.

Through Jan. 17, money managers boosted their net long in CBOT corn futures and options to 192,137 contracts from 149,605 a week earlier. That included the addition of 42,000 gross longs, the most for any week in more than 14 months.

The managed money net long in CBOT soybean meal hit a new lifetime high for a third consecutive week through Jan. 17, and funds extended their buying streak to eight weeks. The new stance of 150,939 futures and options contracts was up from 142,711 a week earlier.

Managed money net position in CBOT soybean meal futures and options

When including other speculators, May 2018 still holds the all-time net long in meal across all speculators by about 1,000 contracts. Meal open interest is at average levels and nearly identical to year-ago ones, but it remains well below the all-time highs from mid-2018.

Most-active CBOT soybean oil rose 2% in the week ended Jan. 17, but money managers trimmed their net long by 606 contracts to 54,008 futures and options contracts.

They also forged their most bearish stance in CBOT wheat futures and options since May 2019, increasing their net short to 65,089 contracts from 63,134 a week earlier. That was despite a 3% climb in futures.

In the last three sessions, most-active CBOT soybean futures fell 2.2%, corn fell 1.3% and soymeal shed 3.6%. Soybean oil dropped 2.9% and CBOT wheat was down 1.4%.

Karen Braun is a market analyst for Reuters. Views expressed above are her own.

Editing by Josie Kao

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As a columnist for Reuters, Karen focuses on all aspects of the global agriculture markets with a primary focus in grains and oilseeds. Karen comes from a strong science background and has a passion for data, statistics, and charts, and she uses them to add context to whatever hot topic is driving the markets. Karen holds degrees in meteorology and sometimes features that expertise in her columns. Follow her on Twitter @kannbwx for her market insights.