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AN INSIGHT
TO DAY TRADING

Exploring the Top 3 Agricultural Futures: A Comprehensive Guide to Soybeans, Corn, and Wheat Futures


Agricultural Futures

Agricultural futures mark the origin of futures trading, with a history that stretches back to the 18th century. The concept of trading contracts for future delivery of agricultural commodities was first established in Japan in 1730, followed by the United States and England. These early exchanges paved the way for the development of intricate agricultural markets that continue to thrive today.


Agricultural futures play a crucial role in ensuring planning security for various stakeholders involved in the agricultural industry. Farmers, ranchers, processors, distributors, packagers, wholesalers, and retailers all rely on these futures contracts to manage their exposure to the ever-changing commodity prices. By hedging their positions or speculating on price movements, market participants seek to mitigate risks and optimise their financial outcomes.


Efficient price discovery is one of the main benefits of agricultural futures. These markets allow buyers and sellers to establish fair prices based on the forces of supply and demand. The liquidity of agricultural futures is another advantage, enabling market participants to enter or exit their positions at any given time, ensuring immediate execution at the best available price.


In today's agricultural futures landscape, the Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT) stands as a prominent institution, maintaining the largest volume in agricultural futures trading. Within this realm, soybeans, corn, and wheat represent the futures contracts with the highest trading volumes. As we explore these agricultural futures in more detail, we will uncover fascinating insights into their production, demand, and trading dynamics.


In this blog post, we will dive into the world of agricultural futures, with a specific focus on soybean futures, corn futures, and wheat futures. We will examine their historical significance, current market trends, and key factors shaping their futures trading. By gaining a deeper understanding of these agricultural commodities, traders and market participants can navigate the intricacies of the market and make informed decisions to maximise their trading success.



Agricultural Futures and Benefits



Efficient Price Building and Market Dynamics


In the realm of agricultural futures, efficient price building is a critical factor that drives market dynamics. These futures markets provide a platform for buyers and sellers to establish fair prices based on the forces of supply and demand. Through the interactions of market participants, the prices of agricultural commodities are determined, reflecting the current and future expectations of market conditions.


Efficient price building in agricultural futures is vital for various stakeholders in the agricultural industry. Farmers, ranchers, processors, distributors, packagers, wholesalers, and retailers all rely on these markets to gain insights into commodity prices and plan their activities accordingly. It offers them a degree of predictability and helps in managing their risks and profitability.



Liquidity and Immediate Contract Execution


Another significant benefit of agricultural futures is the liquidity they offer to market participants. Liquidity refers to the ease with which contracts can be bought or sold in the market. In the case of agricultural futures, this liquidity allows traders to enter or exit their positions immediately at the best available price.


The liquidity of agricultural futures is crucial for day traders and other market participants who require flexibility in executing their trading strategies. It provides them with the ability to act swiftly and take advantage of favorable market conditions or adjust their positions in response to changing circumstances.


Moreover, liquidity in agricultural futures is also beneficial for hedgers who seek to manage their price risks. By entering into futures contracts, they can protect themselves from potential losses caused by adverse price movements in the underlying agricultural commodities.


In conclusion, agricultural futures offer significant benefits to market participants. Efficient price building enables fair market prices and facilitates planning security for various stakeholders in the agricultural industry. The liquidity of these futures markets allows for immediate execution of contracts, providing traders and hedgers with flexibility and opportunities to optimise their trading strategies. Understanding and leveraging these advantages is crucial for successful participation in the agricultural futures market.



1. Soybean Futures



The United States as a Leading Producer and Exporter


Soybeans hold a prominent position in the agricultural futures market, and the United States has emerged as the largest producer and exporter of this essential commodity. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's research indicates that the United States accounted for 28.4% of the global soybean exports in 2019 and contributed to 35% of the global soybean production in 2018. The primary export destinations for U.S. soybeans are China, the European Union, and Japan.



Soybean Cultivation in the United States


Soybeans have become the most planted crop in the United States, with over 76.1 million acres dedicated to their cultivation in 2019. Approximately 81% of soybean cultivation is concentrated in the Upper Midwest region. The soybean planting season commences in late spring, and the harvest begins in early autumn.


The United States has played a pioneering role in the development of bioengineered crops, and soybeans have been at the forefront of this advancement. They were among the first commercially successful bioengineered crops and currently constitute the largest portion of biotech crops in the country.



Global Soybean Production and Demand


The global production of soybeans is categorised into three main segments. Animal feed represents the largest category, accounting for 77% of global soybean production. Direct human food consumption follows, representing 19.2% of the production, while the remaining 3.8% is allocated to industrial uses.


Over the years, the demand for processed soy has witnessed significant growth. From 1990 to 2013, demand increased from 88 million tons to 227 million tons. This surge is primarily driven by increased demand for soybean-based animal feed, biofuels, and vegetable oil.



Trading Volume and Popularity


Soybean futures are highly sought-after in the agricultural futures market, with an average daily trading volume of 200,000 contracts. The popularity of soybean futures can be attributed to the substantial production and global demand for soybeans, as well as their significance as a staple commodity in international trade.


Soybean futures play a pivotal role in the agricultural futures market. The United States stands as the leading producer and exporter of soybeans, supplying major global markets. Understanding the cultivation patterns, global production dynamics, and trading volume of soybean futures is crucial for traders and market participants seeking to capitalise on the opportunities presented by this vital agricultural commodity.


Soybean Futures Contract Specifications

Contract Unit

5,000 bushels (~136 metric tons)

Price Quotation

U.S. cents per bushel

Trading Hours

​Sunday – Friday 7:00 p.m. – 7:45 a.m. CT and Monday – Friday 8:30 a.m. – 1:20 p.m. CT

Minimum Price Fluctuation

​1/4 of one cent (0.0025) per bushel = $12.50

Product Code

ZS

Listed Contracts

Jan, Mar, May, Jul, Aug, Sep & Nov

Settlement Method

Deliverable

Last Trading Date

Business day prior to the 15th day of the contract month.

​Last Delivery Date

Second business day following the last trading day of the delivery month.

​Settlement Procedures

Exchange

  • CBOT



2. Corn Futures



Corn's Dominance in Agricultural Futures


Corn, also known as maize, holds a prominent position in the agricultural futures market. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, more than 90 million acres of land in the United States are allocated to corn cultivation, accounting for over 95% of the total feed grain production. This makes corn a significant player in the agricultural futures market.



Utilisation of Corn Production


The corn produced in the United States serves various purposes, driving its demand both domestically and internationally. The World of Corn publication provides valuable insights into the utilisation of corn production. Approximately 38.7% of the corn is allocated for feed and residual purposes, while 34% is used for ethanol production. Another 9.8% is utilised for other applications such as sweeteners, starch, or beverages. Additionally, 17.5% of the corn production is exported to other countries, making the United States a major participant in the global corn trade market.



Corn Cultivation in the United States


Corn cultivation spans nearly all 50 states in the United States, with varying levels of production. However, the concentration of corn production is predominantly found in the northern and mid-western regions of the country. States such as Iowa and Illinois stand out as top corn-producing states, contributing significantly to the overall corn production in the United States.


The planting season for corn typically begins in the spring, and the harvest takes place during the autumn months. These timelines are crucial factors to consider when analysing corn futures and predicting market trends.



Corn Futures Trading on CBOT


Corn futures are actively traded on the Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT), which is known for its robust grain markets. CBOT serves as the primary hub for corn futures trading, offering liquidity and a platform for market participants to engage in corn-related contracts. On average, approximately 350,000 corn futures contracts are traded per day on CBOT, highlighting the active and dynamic nature of this market.


Corn futures play a significant role in the agricultural futures market. The dominance of corn in feed grain production, its versatile utilisation, and the concentration of corn cultivation in specific regions of the United States contribute to its prominence in futures trading. Understanding these factors and monitoring corn futures trading on CBOT are essential for traders and market participants seeking to capitalize on the opportunities presented by corn as a vital agricultural commodity.


Corn Futures Contract Specifications

Contract Unit

5,000 bushels

Price Quotation

U.S. cents per bushel

Trading Hours

Sunday – Friday, 7:00 p.m. – 7:45 a.m. CT and

Monday – Friday, 8:30 a.m. – 1:20 p.m. CT

Minimum Price Fluctuation

1/4 of one cent (0.0025) per bushel = $12.50

Product Code

ZC

Listed Contracts

Mar, May, Sep, Jul & Dec

Settlement Method

Deliverable

Last Trading Date

Business day prior to the 15th day of the contract month.

​Last Delivery Date

Second business day following the last trading day of the delivery month.

​Settlement Procedures

Exchange

CBOT



3. Wheat Futures



Wheat's Position in the Field Crop Hierarchy


Wheat holds a prominent position among field crops in the United States, ranking third in terms of production, following soybeans and corn. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's research highlights the historical significance of wheat, although its planted area has experienced a notable decline since its peak in 1981. The reduction in wheat planted area by over 40 million acres and a decrease in production by nearly 1.1 billion bushels demonstrate the evolving dynamics of the wheat market.



Stable Demand for Wheat Flour and Consumer Preferences


Demand for wheat flour remains relatively stable, with consumption largely unaffected by changes in wheat prices or disposable income. However, wheat consumption in the United States is closely tied to population growth and consumer preferences. Over time, consumer preferences have shifted, particularly influenced by the adoption of low-carbohydrate diets in the mid-90s. This trend continued with the rising popularity of related diets and the emergence of the gluten-free food trend in 2008. Consequently, per capita wheat consumption in the United States declined to 131 pounds by 2019, from its peak of 225 pounds.



Wheat Production and Classification in the United States


Wheat production in the United States is classified into five major classes, each with its own unique characteristics and market demand. Hard red winter and hard red spring wheat account for the majority, representing 60% of the production. Soft red winter wheat follows, representing 23% of the production. White wheat constitutes 15%, while durum wheat accounts for 2% of the overall wheat production, as reported by the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center (AgMRC).


The availability of various wheat species allows for year-round planting and harvesting, providing flexibility for farmers and ensuring a continuous supply of this essential commodity.



U.S. as a Major Wheat Exporter


Although the United States produces approximately 6-7% of the global wheat, it remains a significant player in the wheat export market. The country serves as a major exporter of wheat, contributing to international trade and meeting the global demand for this essential staple.


Wheat futures hold significance in the agricultural futures market. While wheat production in the United States has experienced changes over time, its stable demand for flour and the influence of consumer preferences on consumption patterns shape the market dynamics. Understanding the classification of wheat, its production trends, and the role of the United States as a major exporter are crucial factors for traders and market participants interested in engaging with wheat futures.


SRW WHEAT FUTURES CONTRACT SPECS

​Contract Unit

5,000 bushels (~ 136 metric tons)

Price Quotation

U.S. cents per bushel

Trading Hours

Sunday – Friday: 7:00 p.m. – 7:45 a.m. CT and

Monday – Friday: 8:30 a.m. – 1:20 p.m. CT

Minimum Price Fluctuation

1/4 of one cent (0.0025) per bushel = $12.50

Product Code

ZW

Listed Contracts

Mar, May, Jul, Sep, Dec

Settlement Method

Deliverable

Last Trading Date

Business day prior to the 15th day of the contract month.

​Last Delivery Date

Second business day following the last trading day of the delivery month.

​Settlement Procedures

Exchange

CBOT



Conclusion and Future Outlook


Agricultural futures play a pivotal role in the global commodities market, providing a platform for price discovery, risk management, and investment opportunities. The origins of futures trading can be traced back to the trading of rice futures in Japan in the 18th century, followed by the establishment of exchanges in the United States and England. Over time, agricultural futures have evolved, becoming increasingly complex and involving a wide range of market participants.


The agricultural futures market offers numerous opportunities for farmers, ranchers, processors, distributors, and traders to manage their risks, plan their activities, and seek profitable ventures. Efficient price building and liquidity are key benefits that attract market participants, enabling them to enter and exit positions at favorable prices.


However, participating in agricultural futures trading also comes with challenges. Market volatility, supply and demand fluctuations, weather conditions, and geopolitical factors can all impact agricultural commodity prices, posing risks to traders and hedgers. It is crucial for market participants to stay informed, conduct thorough analysis, and employ risk management strategies to navigate these challenges successfully.


The agricultural futures market is continuously evolving, influenced by various factors such as technological advancements, changing consumer preferences, and global market dynamics. As the world population continues to grow and food security remains a pressing issue, the demand for agricultural commodities is expected to increase.


Innovation in agricultural practices, such as precision farming and genetic advancements, can impact the production and supply of agricultural commodities, subsequently influencing futures trading. Additionally, the emergence of sustainable and environmentally friendly agricultural practices can shape the future of agricultural futures, as market participants increasingly consider factors like climate change, resource conservation, and social responsibility.


To thrive in the agricultural futures market, it is essential for traders and market participants to stay informed, leverage comprehensive market research, and develop effective trading strategies. Understanding the dynamics of specific agricultural futures, such as soybeans, corn, and wheat, allows for better decision-making and the ability to seize opportunities as they arise.


In conclusion, agricultural futures provide a vital avenue for market participants to navigate the complexities of the agricultural industry. By understanding the historical context, benefits, market dynamics, and future trends, traders and participants can position themselves for success in this dynamic and ever-evolving market. With careful analysis, risk management, and a forward-thinking mindset, individuals can harness the potential of agricultural futures and contribute to the growth and stability of the global agricultural market.


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