Every month traders, farmers and market observers hang on every word from USDA. Perhaps it is the most attention a single government department can get every month, given the nature of the reports released and how they can impact the incomes of so many people in agriculture. However, changes to market hours has USDA looking at when it might release those reports to provide the best information at a time with the least "immediate" market impact.
With the Intercontinential Exchange going to a 22-hour electronic trading day, and with the CME Group offering several ag contracts for 21 hours per day now, concerns have been raised by grain groups and options traders over the timing of USDA reports. There is a concern that the increased volatility of a report being released while the market is open could cause trouble.
Today, USDA releases its major reports at 8:30 a.m. Eastern time. While there is no definitive answer for the best time for a report, USDA wants to gather public information to determine the best reporting time. To that end, USDA has announced that the National Agricultural Statistics Service and the World Agricultural Outlook Board - the USDA entities responsible for the reports - will seek public comment on the release times and procedures in the future.
According to a statement from USDA, "in the coming weeks, USDA expects to publish a notice in the Federal REgister advising the public of the comment period." The agency is reviewing release times of the following reports:
- World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates
- Cattle on Feed
- Crop Production
- Grain Stocks
- Prospective plantings
- Quarterly Hogs and Pigs
- Small Grain Summary
"It is important that USDA continue to ensure the integrity of its report release process, particularly as global exchanges move closer to 24-hour trading," says Joseph Glauber, USDA's chief economist. "To this end, USDA is reviewing our procedures and will solicit public input to determine the needs of those who use our data."
When ICE and the CME Group expanded electronic trading hours questions were raised about report time. Earlier on Friday, CME Group announced its floor trading hours would shift on key report days opening at 7:20 ahead of major report releases.