From the June 01, 2012 issue of Futures Magazine • Subscribe!

Using options to exploit anomalies in the grain complex

The grain complex -- wheat, corn, soybeans and oats -- is in some ways closely coordinated but at times widely different in the price movements of its futures contracts. “Cumulative percent price change” (below) shows how the futures performed from January through March 2012. Continuing their close correlation, wheat and corn played tag, with wheat being slightly more volatile. Meanwhile, soybeans increased at a relatively steady pace and oats slacked off in early March before catching up with soybeans by the end of the month. 

Average percentage changes during the three months tend to support the notion that wheat and corn form a good pair for price spreads. Wheat declined on average 3.71% while corn dropped by an average of 3.99%. Oat and soybean futures increased on average 1.18% and 3.36%, respectively.

Overall, it is clear on the cumulative percent price change chart that soybean futures are the only one of the four grains to grow consistently during the first quarter of 2012, and that wheat and corn currently are in a trendless condition despite forecasts of higher food prices caused by low inventories. Only the substantial price gains for July wheat and corn futures on March 30 — 7.46% and 6.56% — give a hint of possible upward trends.

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