CHICAGO — Corn and soybean market participants have been reluctant to sell futures contracts in advance of the multi-week export sales data to be released Oct. 31 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Roy Huckabay, executive-vice president of The Linn Group, told Milling & Baking News.

“Prices would be lower if it weren’t for the combined weeks of export sales coming out tomorrow,” he said.

He noted that corn cash basis levels have remained “firmish,” with country movement of only about 10% to 20% of harvested bushels so far, another sign that sellers have adopted a cautious stance in advance of what could appear to be notably bullish export numbers. He added that it is common knowledge that, during the government shutdown, China was a heavy buyer of U.S. corn — in the range of 720,000 bus — as prices eased to attractive levels.

While the market is well aware that the Oct. 31 export sales report will contain information for the weeks ended Oct. 10, Oct. 17 and Oct. 24 — which includes the remaining data from when government was in partial shutdown — the totals may appear strikingly large and instigate major short-covering at the very least, moving prices higher, Mr. Huckabay said. The market will be digesting the new information at the same time rainfall in the Midwest is temporarily slowing down harvest progress, and fundamentals may look suddenly more bullish than they have of late.

Mr. Huckabay is predicting the U.S.D.A. combined export sales for the past three weeks will come in at about 2.5 million tonnes of corn, 3 million tonnes of soybeans and 2 million tonnes of wheat. Net export sales of soybean meal, he expects, will be pegged at about 950,000 tonnes and soybean oil may reach 75,000 to 80,000 tonnes.

He noted, though, that after this unusual export sales report is fully factored into pricing, the downward trajectory for corn and soybean futures will likely resume because both the yields and conditions of the crops point to bumper crops. He said “super bears” were starting to predict nearby corn futures in the range of $3.35 to $3.50 a bu.