U.S. corn futures stumbled Friday on profit-taking after reaching a 32-month high but finished higher for the week.
Nearby corn for March delivery fell 8 1/2 cents, or 1.2%, to $7.21 1/4 a bushel after reaching a fresh high of $7.35 at the Chicago Board of Trade. Corn for May delivery, the most-active contract, closed down 8 3/4 cents, or 1.2%, at $7.28, up 6 cents on the week.
Traders took money off the table ahead of the weekend but said they remained concerned about supplies, which are projected to come in at a 15-year low at the end of the crop's marketing year on Aug. 31. Corn futures have climbed recently to curb demand and entice farmers to expand plantings this spring to replenish supplies.
Strong demand raises concerns the U.S. Department of Agriculture may make further cuts to its supply forecast in a monthly crop report due next week, said Tim Hannagan, analyst for PFG Best, a brokerage in Chicago. The report, due Thursday, will contain fresh domestic supply and demand estimates and global production forecasts.
"Since each week in February saw a 1 million metric ton plus export number, it leaves fear in the markets," Hannagan said.
Yet, the slow pace of shipments could prevent the government from increasing the export forecast. Foreign countries have inked deals to buy grain but it hasn't all been shipped, leaving open the possibility for cancellations of previous purchases.
"Shipment paces remain a bit of a concern in wheat and corn, but the recent strength in export sales likely means that they won't change their forecasts for either of crops at this time," said Jerry Gidel, analyst for North America Risk Management Service in Chicago.
The USDA will issue another, more-anticipated crop report March 31 that will project how much corn farmers will plant this spring. It will issue estimates for quarterly grain inventories the same day.
In other markets, ethanol futures pulled back with corn, with the May contract dropping 0.8 cent, or 0.3%, to $2.605 per gallon at the CBOT. Oats for May delivery fell 4 cents, or 1%, to $3.90 a bushel.