July Volatility in November Soybean Futures Prices

The change in the November soybean futures price from the market open on July 1 to market close on August 1 was down $0.56/bu. However, the open-to-close change does not capture the volatility that occurred in July 2022. The trading range for the month (contract high-low) was $2.01/bu, with 11 out of 21 trading days having moves of greater than (+/-) 25 cents (Table 1). Volatility reflects uncertainty regarding drought/production, geopolitics, trade, the global economy, and many other factors. Futures markets reflect the opinion of market participants on factors affecting current and future supply, demand, and prices. Market participants, including producers, merchandisers, end users, and speculators, will weigh factors differently; however, at any point in time, the futures market can be deemed as the best guess of future value as indicated by trades for various contract months.  The constant flow of new information causes markets to move continuously. 

As mentioned above, numerous factors have attributed to the dramatic price swings in soybean markets. However, one factor that will be watched closely moving forward is the change in the CME crush margin and the allocation of soybean value embedded in soybean meal and soybean oil. Crush margins can provide producers with valuable information regarding the drivers of demand for soybeans and soybean futures market prices. The CME crush margin is defined as:

CME Crush Margin = [(Price of Soybean Meal ($/short ton) x 0.022) + (Price of Soybean Oil (¢/lb) x 11)] – Price of Soybeans ($/bu)

In 2022, the value of the September soybean CME crush margin had ranged from $1.38/bu to $2.26/bu, with an average of $1.80/bu. The CME crush margin on August 1 was $2.18/bu, near the top of the 2022 range indicating a rebound in the June low and a strong incentive for more crush (Figure 1). When the CME crush margin peaked on April 27, the percent of value embedded in a bushel of soybeans was 52% meal and 49% oil. In other words, oil was leading the charge for soybean value (the value of a bushel of soybeans attributed to oil and meal has ranged from 60:40 to 50:50 in 2022). Now, as of August 1, that ratio has moved to 58:42 indicating meal is providing a greater influence on soybean value. 

Both soybean oil and meal have provided strong influence in soybean markets this year and demand for both products remains strong. Strong demand and shrinking USDA 2022/23 U.S. ending stock numbers (230 million bushels in the July WASDE) will continue to support soybean prices. Bearish influences, economic growth and geopolitical tensions, primarily with China, are still present in the market, but demand continues to be a positive factor supporting soybean prices.

Table 1. November Soybean Futures Price July 1 – August 1, 2022

Figure 1. Percent of Soybean Value Attributed to Meal and Oil Compared to CME Cush Margin (September Contracts)

References and Resources

Barchart.com. Accessed at: https://www.barchart.com/futures/grains?viewName=mainCME Group. Soybean Crush Reference Guide: https://www.cmegroup.com/education/files/soybean-crush-reference-guide.pdf

Smith, S. Aaron. “July Volatility in November Soybean Futures Prices“. Southern Ag Today 2(33.1). August 8, 2022. Permalink

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Associate Professor, Crop Marketing Specialist

University of Tennessee

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