One worthwhile way to forecast price patterns is to review the market action of years when fundamental (supply-demand) factors were similar to those of the current year.

This type of review is called an analogue study. The theory is that, if the fundamentals are similar, then the price action could be similar.

No one has given me a perfect analogue weather forecast for this growing season. However, the patterns that you observe can help you make pricing decisions.

I have selected three analogue years with which to compare the 1997-98 marketing year. In each of these years, U.S. and global ending stocks were projected to increase slightly after a year of tight supplies in this country.

First, review market action for the 1982-83 marketing year. In October of 1982, bean prices made a significant low. That low was followed by a mid-January high and then a 50 cents price decline into the lows made in late February.

Prices then were in a major rally phase until early April, followed by a late-June low. Then they exploded higher as a Midwestern drought rallied prices sharply higher to a peak in September of 1983.

Without the drought, mid- April would have been the best time to sell.

In the 1984-85 marketing year, prices peaked in early November 1984, then dropped to an important low in late February 1985. After a return rally into mid-March, prices slid lower into the early November harvest lows.

The key sell signal came in early April, when the March lows were taken out.

The most recent marketing year to compare with is 1989-90. The soybean market rallied to a peak in mid-November 1989, then prices fell into late February of 1990. From that late-February low, prices rallied to a significant high in late April.

The key price signal was when nearby futures closed above the March highs in early April of 1990. When that happened, prices shot up 50 cents/bu in just five days. From the highs made in April-May, futures then dropped back 80 cents/bu by mid-June.

In all three years, prices bottomed in late February, then rallied into late March. It took a major weather scare for prices to rally after May.

In each of those years, selling some crop in late March, mid-April and mid-May was the best profit combination available. It probably will be again this year unless a drought develops.