NEW YORK (AP) -- Grain prices tumbled Tuesday, Jan. 12, after the Department of Agriculture said 2009 crops came in above previous estimates.
Corn, soybean and wheat prices all plummeted on the Chicago Board of Trade following a government report that showed corn and soybean production surpassed forecasts made in November and hit record levels last year.
Even though the agency may update its harvest estimates again in March, analysts say the market has heard enough from the January report to conclude that this year's grain crops were abundant enough to send market prices sharply lower.
"This is enough of a final word to send shock waves through the Chicago Board of Trade," said Richard Feltes, senior vice president and director of commodity research at MF Global.
In fact, Feltes said, the surging crop supplies may mean that grain prices may have already seen the highest levels they'll ever reach in 2010 -- less than two weeks into the year. While the crop report was bad news for farmers looking to sell grains, it does mean food companies and consumers are likely to benefit from lower prices.
Corn for March delivery tumbled 30 cents, or 7.1 percent, to settle at $3.925 a bushel. Soybeans dropped 32.5 cents, or 3.2 percent, to $9.78 a bushel, while wheat fell 36.75 cents, or 6.4 percent, to $5.3575 a bushel.
Both corn and soybeans for March delivery hit their 2010 highs on the first day of trading in the year, Jan. 4. Corn traded as high as $4.2625 a bushel, while soybeans hit $10.7475 a bushel. Wheat prices climbed as high as $5.75 a bushel in trading Monday, Jan. 11.
"A lot of producers probably wish they were more aggressive selling last week," Feltes said.
Meanwhile, the USDA left its forecast for Florida orange production unchanged from its previous report in December. However, the department warned their estimates do not take into account any damage sustained in recent days due to cold weather. Frozen orange juice concentrate prices have been volatile over the past week and a half on concerns that recent freezing temperatures in Florida might have significantly damaged the crop. Orange fruit and trees can be damaged when temperatures drop below 28 degrees for at least four hours.
Frozen orange juice concentrate contracts for March delivery rose $4.55, or 3.4 percent, to settle at $1.364 a pound. OJ had plummeted 12.8 percent Monday, but is still 5.7 percent higher for the year.
Demand for frozen concentrate will grow if supply of fresh fruit is scarce. On Monday, the trade group Florida Citrus Mutual warned it might still be weeks before the full damage of the most recent freeze is known.
Warming temperatures across much of the U.S. over the last couple of days weakened demand for crude oil, which had hit a 15-month high.
Benchmark crude for February delivery fell $1.73 to settle at $80.79 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It's the first time this year a barrel has closed below $81.
In other Nymex trading in February contracts, heating oil fell 4.83 cents or 2.2 percent to $2.1318 a gallon and gasoline slipped 4.49 cents or 2.1 percent to $2.0978 a gallon.
Metal prices declined. Gold for February delivery fell $22, or 1.9 percent, to settle at $1,129.40 an ounce.
Platinum and palladium both reversed gains seen earlier in the day. Platinum for April delivery dropped $13.9 to $1,578.60 an ounce, while Palladium for March delivery fell $6.15 to $425.80 an ounce.