Grain investors race for the exits amid fresh virus panic
An abrupt commodity selloff right after the Thanksgiving holiday had speculators and especially index traders dumping their positions in Chicago grains and oilseeds, but market participants retain relatively bullish views after an uptick late last week.
Fears surrounding a new coronavirus variant rattled both grain and outside markets just over a week ago, and that was immediately after traders had piled into CBOT grains, largely as a hedge against escalating inflation.
In the week ended Nov. 30, commodity index traders dumped more than 154,000 CBOT wheat and corn futures and options contracts, including both longs and shorts. That is a record for a single week and represented a 17% reduction in the total corn and wheat positions.
Money managers were also relatively big sellers of CBOT corn futures and options through Nov. 30, as their net long fell by more than 51,000 to 315,269 contracts. That was their second biggest corn selling week of 2021 following the week ended May 11.
That is according to data published Friday afternoon by the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission. The week ended Nov. 30 had only four days due to the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday, and trade was volatile on the days before and after.
Speculative selling in corn futures had been pegged around 45,000 contracts for the week, though Chicago wheat selling was presumed to have hit 55,000 contracts, and that would have put money managers in their most bearish wheat position since June 2020.
However, a genuinely bullish story in global wheat fundamentals may have prevented funds from taking the plunge. Money managers through Nov. 30 reduced their net long in CBOT wheat futures and options to 6,200 contracts, a decline of less than 12,000.
CBOT wheat futures hit nine-year highs the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, but for the week ended Nov. 30, March futures lost 9.3%. March corn was down 3.5% that week, and crude oil tanked 13% on the Friday after Thanksgiving over virus panic.
Markets are still assessing the impact of the newly identified variant on the global economy, though the gains across CBOT futures late last week likely signaled that the initial selloff was overdone.
March corn rose nearly 3% between Wednesday and Friday and March wheat was up 2%, and commodity funds were pegged as moderate buyers of the grains.
The soy complex was hit hard in the week ended Nov. 30, but the oilseeds staged a bigger comeback than the grains between Wednesday and Friday. Most-active soybeans rose 4.1% and funds are thought to have bought 24,500 futures contracts.
The selling in soybeans through Nov. 30 was less than half of what estimates suggested. Money managers cut their net long to 33,425 soybean futures and options contracts from 49,356 in the prior week.
Index traders cut soybean positions by less than 6% during the week, though the combined number of outright longs and shorts reached the lowest levels in more than two years. Open interest in soybeans fell 4% for the week compared with 20% and 23% respective declines in corn and wheat.
Money managers sold about 18,000 soybean oil futures and options contracts through Nov. 30, their biggest weekly round of selling since January. That pared their net long to 64,360 contracts, a nine-week low.
They sold nearly 16,000 soybean meal contracts, reducing their net long to 37,681 futures and options contracts as of Nov. 30. Most-active soybean meal futures jumped 4.9% over the last three sessions and soybean oil gained 3.6%.