What Mattered to the Markets in 2023

Dec 28, 2023

By Elaine Kub


Every morning that the markets are open, either DTN Senior Market Analyst Dana Mantini or DTN Lead Analyst Todd Hultman writes more than 1,000 words about what's going on in the corn, soybean and wheat markets that day, in a regular piece called "Before the Bell." It runs on DTN's newswire alongside their "Early Word" analysis published at daybreak and their "Closing Grain Comments" published when each trading day is done.

If a DTN subscriber perused each and every Before the Bell throughout the 252 trading days in 2023, they would have read approximately 270,000 words -- that's a work of writing that's longer than the Bible's New Testament (184,590 words), although slightly less than half the length of Leo Tolstoy's "War and Peace" (587,287 words). If it were a novel or a memoir, it would take roughly 1,000 pages to print and therefore be about the same size as Barbra Streisand's 2023 bestseller, "My Name is Barbra."

The readers of DTN's market analysis, however, will have much more to show for their time than those of "My Name is Barbra" (no shade to Ms. Streisand's memoir, which I haven't read yet). I do know that when young grain producers ask me for a recommendation of what they can read or watch or use to stay informed about the grain markets and develop some insights about how urgently they should sell grain or how best they can position themselves in the volatile markets, I always recommend DTN's daily analysis.

I emphatically do not recommend checking your phone screen obsessively every six minutes to see if the price of soybeans has ticked up or down another nickel -- that's a sure way to drive yourself crazy. And I don't recommend sticking your head in the sand and never bothering to know what the price of grain is until the day you happen to drive a truck across the scale. But a good, daily look at the most pressing topics of the moment is a good, healthy measure of an informed business operator.

And what were those topics throughout the past year? One way to recap the year would be to simply look back at a calendar and try to remember what was top of mind during March (fertilizer prices and acreage swings) or June (drought in the heart of the Corn Belt), or we could go back and look at headlines to cherry pick a few of the hottest concerns.

However, I decided to do a more in-depth dive, one that couldn't be swayed by my own fallible memory. I gathered up all the text from all the Before the Bell grain comments that ran on DTN through the past year and, after letting my computer crunch the text through some analysis, I found the words that were actually mentioned the most during 2023.

Well, first I ignored some of the filler words that can't be avoided, like "cents," "contracts" or "Monday." Then, once I got down to the good stuff, some interesting trends emerged.

"Export" was the most commonly used meaningful word, appearing 1,170 times during DTN Before the Bell comments in 2023, but it was closely followed by "Brazil" (1,105). On the other hand, "China" only got called out 690 times. Consider what that tells us about the markets overall during the past year -- it wasn't a year of obsessive worry about whether China would or would not renege on the terms of some trade deal.


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