Power Figures for Grain Market Analysis

What are the Power Figures? The Grain “Power Figures” are two key numbers that can give a “snapshot” of the fundamental situation in any grain market analysis. We call them this because they heavily influence their price predictive power in any grain market. The two key Power Figures you MUST know for price discovery in grains are: 1. Ending Stocks: the amount of grain left in storage at the end of the “crop year” (September 1) after all demand has been met. Ending stocks can also be informally referred to as “leftover” or “carryover” stocks. 2. Stocks to Usage Ratio: The projected demand for the upcoming year divided by projected Ending Stocks. In other words, if there were no crop at all this year, the stocks to usage ratio would tell you what percentage of demand could be met by using up what is leftover from last year’s crop.

Understanding Ending Stocks

Let’s talk a little about each. Ending Stocks, for instance, in February, the USDA gave its monthly estimate for 2024/25 US Corn Ending Stocks. This is where they expect US corn supplies to be on September 1, 2024 (just prior to this year’s harvest). Ending stocks take the year’s supply, subtract the year’s demand, and come up with a figure. Ending stocks are the USDA’s projections of where supply will be on September 1. The critical thing to remember is that ending stocks are a key figure in what kind of supply environment the market is operating in. It’s the big picture in grain market analysis.

Deciphering the Stocks to Usage Ratio

Stocks to Usage is a measure of where supplies are compared to where projected demand will be in the upcoming year. For instance, based on the data provided, ending stocks for the 2024/25 marketing year are expected to be 2.532 billion bushels. Total demand (or “use”) is projected to be 14.705 billion bushels. Therefore, Stocks to Usage would be 2.532 / 14.705 = 17.2%. This means that if there were no corn harvested in the 2024/25 marketing year, the US would have been (theoretically) able to meet 17.2% of the 2024/25 demand with what was left over from the 2023/24 crop.

The Significance of These Figures

Why are Ending Stocks and Stocks to Usage so important? These figures are crucial because every factor that affects supply and demand is factored into them. Everything in a grain market, such as rain problems, Chinese imports, Brazilian drought, increased population, and harvest delays, is essential to price only in how they affect ending stocks and stocks to Usage. Think of these two figures as an overall gauge of the environment in which the market is operating. Prices will move based on how the market thinks various events will affect ending stocks and Usage. Changes in ending stocks or stocks to Usage (US and World) can significantly impact price.

Acquiring the Figures

Where do you get these figures? In its monthly Supply and Demand report, the USDA updates ending stocks and stocks to Usage for all grains. You can view this report at www.USDA.gov.


It is for this reason you will often see us talk about both of these figures when discussing corn, soybeans, wheat, or other agricultural markets. Analyzing the implications of these figures is how we spend much of our time selecting favorable markets for our readers. But it is the key to price discovery in all grain market analysis and worth the effort. For one, very few individual investors are utilizing these powerful numbers (or know how to do it), and two, it can often give you a range of where prices will likely remain throughout different market conditions.

How? By comparing them to ending stocks and stocks to usage numbers from previous years — and how prices reacted in those years. Yes, it takes a little elbow grease. But it’s not rocket science. Knowing how to use these two simple figures can put you head and shoulders above other grain traders. Again, tracking these numbers will not necessarily tell you what prices will do, but it will give you an expected range where prices will tend to stay.

As the spring planting season is starting, these figures’ importance and their price predictive power cannot be overstated. Even a basic understanding of these power figures can help you generate high-percentage grain trades for your clients this spring.


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