From the Wall Street Journal:
REMINGTON, Ind.—Jake Rothman, an analyst at Boston hedge-fund firm Mayo Capital Partners, slogged through a muddy cornfield near here on Tuesday, looking for clues about the size of this year's U.S. crop.HT: Abnormal Returns
Wearing an oversized raincoat borrowed from a farmer, the 35-year-old Mr. Rothman worked his way down one row until he was hidden in the tightly packed cornstalks.
"There's more uncertainty this year," he said while riding in a van to the next field. The coming harvest will affect grain processor Archer-Daniels-Midland Co., fertilizer maker CF Industries Holdings Inc. and other agriculture companies followed by Mr. Rothman.
Across the Midwest, dozens of analysts and investors are tramping corn and soybean fields this week in an annual ritual aimed at giving them an edge on their Wall Street rivals.
The four-day, seven-state marathon costs $80, not including travel costs, and is organized by Pro Farmer, an agriculture advisory firm. Participants walk dozens of fields and get details from farmers about the number of bushels likely to be harvested from each acre.
Instead of relying on the spreadsheets left behind on their office computers, analysts and investors on the "corn tour" become "scouts" who disappear into each field with a 30-foot-long yellow rope. They run the rope along a row of stalks and count the number of ears.
Along the 30-foot section, the scouts pull off the fifth, eighth and 11th ears—and then rip off the husks to count the number of kernels along the circumference of each ear. The scouts put their arms up in front of their faces to protect themselves from sharply edged corn leaves.
Pro Farmer plans on Friday to release a forecast for the average U.S. corn yield, or the projected harvest by acre. The annual measurement often moves commodity and stock prices, and it will be watched closely as traders debate by how much the U.S. Department of Agriculture will reduce its forecast next month.
On Thursday, corn for delivery in September rose 0.1% to a two-month high of $7.3225 a bushel on the Chicago Board of Trade. Corn futures are up 16% so far this year.
The crop tour gives analysts and investors some down-to-earth numbers, gut instinct and dirty hands to go with the government's official data. Expectations are for a large corn crop, but no longer the record haul predicted earlier this year. Exact figures won't be known until farm combines have harvested tens of millions of acres, which will take months. The crop's size will ripple through the economy and financial markets....MORE