Soybean prices reached a peak on Sept. 4, with November 2012 futures trading to $17.89 per bushel.

The price of that contract declined to about $15.50 by the end of September and has been in a range of $14.86 to $15.74 since then.

The price is currently in the lower half of that range, according to University of Illinois agricultural economist Darrel Good.

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“The generally sideways pattern for soybean prices over the past month reflects conflicting fundamental factors,” Good said.

“The most supportive factor has clearly been the very strong export pace. U.S. exports will be restricted to some extent this year due to the smaller supply.  

“The USDA forecast exports at 1.05 billion bushels in September when the crop was expected to total only 2.634 billion bushels. The export forecast was raised to 1.265 billion bushels last month when the production forecast was increased to 2.86 billion bushels.

“The latest forecast is 95 million bushels less than last year’s exports and 236 million less than were exported during the 2010-11 marketing year,” he said.

Through the first nine weeks of the current marketing year, the USDA reported cumulative export inspections of 370 million bushels, about 110 million bushels larger than cumulative inspections last year, according to Good.  

“Exports to China accounted for about half of the year-over-year increase.

Good said that, as of Oct. 25, the USDA reported unshipped export sales of 650 million bushels, 166 million bushels larger than unshipped sales a year earlier.

Nearly 70 percent of the increase was to “unknown” destinations, much of which may be additional Chinese purchases.  

The large U.S. soybean export program to date reflects the continued growth in Chinese consumption and the unusually small soybean harvest in South America earlier this year.