FUTURES FILES

Oil demand drying up

Oil prices plunged to a seven-month low last week, nearing $50 per barrel.

Prices are falling as economists grow increasingly concerned about a global slowdown that would sap demand for oil. The first half of 2019 saw the slowest growth in global oil demand in a decade, and the International Energy Agency expects tepid demand growth for the rest of this year and into 2020 as well.

While global demand is only inching higher, output has been rising faster, especially from U.S. shale oil producers. U.S. drillers, using new technology like fracking, have more than doubled American oil production during the last decade, shifting the balance of power away from foreign oil producers.

U.S. stockpiles of oil are near 439 million barrels, well above average levels, but have been falling recently, a sign that domestic consumption is slowly eating into the storage glut.

Meanwhile, there is rising expectation that the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries will make mandated cuts to the cartel’s oil production in order to boost prices. OPEC’s oil output is already at a five-year low.

Despite the slow global demand, expectations for supply cuts and bargain-hunting by investors helped lift oil by week’s end, rallying over $4 per barrel (+8.4%) from the low to Friday’s high.

Farmers on edge ahead of crop report

Today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture will release its newest estimates on the U.S. corn, wheat, and soybean crops, as well as an outlook for global supply and demand.

After flooding devastated many Midwestern farms this spring and prevented farmers from planting their corn crop, market watchers expected that this year’s harvest could be significantly smaller than originally projected.

The previous USDA outlook showed 91.7 million planted acres of corn, a figure that traders are expecting to drop to 88 million in Monday’s report. Soybean acreage is expected to rise from 80 million to 81 million as farmers who were unable to plant corn switched to soybeans.

In addition to acreage shifts, markets are wary of crop yields this year, as many fields were planted late or in wet conditions, which can reduce corn and soybean production. Firm estimates of crop yields won’t come from the USDA for another month, although they will include a best-guess today.

Ahead of the report, December corn and November beans traded for $4.17 and $8.89 per bushel, respectively. If the USDA’s newest estimates deviate significantly from markets’ expectations, there could be large market moves today.

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