By Kirk Maltais
--Corn for December delivery fell 0.2% to $3.90 a bushel on the Chicago Board of Trade on Thursday, on disappointment that there were no big new sales to China.
--Wheat for December delivery edged 0.1% lower to $5.08 3/4 a bushel.
--Soybeans for January delivery rose 0.2% to $9.32 1/4 a bushel.
Demand Doldrums: Export sales for grains fell within estimates provided by analysts to The Wall Street Journal, but precious little of those sales were to Chinese buyers. The Chinese bought a smaller amount of soybeans than prior weeks. Neither corn nor wheat showed any big new sales to China. "The CBOT needs to see sustained Chinese buying which is not occurring...the CBOT needs fresh demand news to feed the bulls," AgResource said.
Spooked: New doubts about the ability of the U.S. and China to finalize any sort of trade deal emerged in the market. Bloomberg News said Chinese officials are concerned that the mercurial temper of President Trump may cause him to back out of the phase 1 deal -- which includes new agricultural purchases by China -- before it can be signed. "China reiterated they were only interested in buying needed quantities of agricultural products from the U.S.," said Doug Bergman of RCM Alternatives.
Stuck in Reverse: Thursday marked the fourth trading session in a row that wheat futures fell and the seventh down session out of the last nine. Since Oct. 21, when wheat's losing streak began, the futures price has fallen 5% as demand worries weigh. China, which used to be a big buyer of American grain, is out of the game, and U.S. wheat remains more expensive than its rivals in foreign markets. Add to that the risk of the USDA raising its estimates for the 2019/20 U.S. crop in its WASDE report next week, and there aren't many reasons for traders to buy wheat futures.
ADM's Sagging Earnings: U.S. agricultural exports remained in a tough spot with both volumes and profit margins lower, said grain giant Archer Daniels Midland. Chinese buyers have turned to South America due to the U.S. trade conflict, pulling more soybeans away from ADM's Latin American soybean-processing facilities and cutting into profit margins there. Earnings from ADM's ag services and oilseeds division, its biggest source of profits, slid 13% in the third quarter.
Cutting Losses: ADM is making progress on its longtime goal of reducing exposure to the ethanol business, by dividing its ethanol dry mills into a standalone unit called Vantage Corn Processors on Dec. 1. A sale of the division is possible, with ADM's CFO Ray Young saying the company has quite a few interested parties discussing some form of sale or other transaction. ADM said ethanol has struggled against low profit margins and lower-than-expected export demand.
Seed Surge: Seed provider Corteva saw a big boost in third-quarter sales, with seed volume doubling due to the many purchases pushed back from the springtime by persistently wet weather that kept many farmers out of fields.
--The U.S. Department of Labor will release its monthly employment data at 8:30 a.m. EDT Friday.
--ISM will release its monthly manufacturing index, an indicator of economic health, at 10 a.m. EDT on Friday.
--The USDA releases its monthly grains crushings report at 3 p.m. EDT Friday.
--The CFTC will release its weekly commitment of traders data at 3:30 p.m. EDT Friday.
--The USDA releases its World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates at noon ET Nov. 8.
--Jacob Bunge contributed to this article.
Write to Kirk Maltais at email@example.com