USDA Sends Mixed Signals

On Friday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released its newest outlook on this year’s corn and soybean crops.

The government agency projected a slightly smaller corn harvest, while holding the size of the bean crop steady. Corn yields were projected at 167 bushels per acre, down sharply from last year’s 176.4 yield, a result of poor weather this year.

This update helped boost December corn futures to $3.80 per bushel by midday Friday, while January soybeans dropped to $9.30.

China announced on Thursday that it had reached a deal with the United States to remove additional tariffs, news that brought elation to export-driven commodities and stock prices. Cotton, hogs, and soybeans all ran higher following the announcement, and U.S. stock index futures like the S&P 500 and Dow Jones Industrial Average reached all-time highs.

However, President Trump denied that a deal had been cut on Friday morning, saying “They’d like to have a roll back, but I haven’t agreed to anything… frankly, they want to make a deal a lot more than I do.”

His tone and direct denial sent markets scampering lower, another reminder that rumors of an agreement are only meaningful if both parties say them, as U.S. and Chinese officials have misled markets dozens of times over the last 18 months