FAO Makes Massive Cut in China Corn Stocks

Posted on 02/05/2021 8:13 AM

Farm income forecasts today | U.S. economy adds 49,000 jobs in January; jobless rate cut


In Today’s Digital Newspaper


Market Focus:
• Global equities set for best weekly gain since November
• Robinhood removed trading restrictions on all stocks, including GameStop
• Yellen finds market infrastructure ‘resilient’
• U.S. employers added 49,000 jobs last month; unemployment rate fell to 6.3%
• Brent crude nearing $60/barrel
• USDA daily export sale: 101,600 MT corn to unknown destinations during 2020-2021
• USDA farm income forecasts today; first for 2021; 2020 could be record
• Biden mulls using executive action to forgive Americans’ federal student debt
• Treasury yield curve continues to steepen
• CME Group raises margins on corn and wheat futures
• U.S. cotton futures rallying on large China purchases and Texas drought
• Ag demand
• U.S. energy consumption won’t return to pre-pandemic levels until 2029: IEA
• Consultancy raises Brazilian crop forecasts

• Generally dry weather for Argentina, conditions expected to remain favorable for Brazil

• Argentine gov’t not ruling out anything in its quest to tame food inflation

• Ukraine’s grain exports nearly 21% behind year-ago

• China, Australia reports bird flu in wild birds


Policy Focus:
• Senate Dems approve budget resolution, setting up Covid aid measure
• Biden will raise cap on refugee admissions to 125,000


Biden Administration Personnel

• Senate to Vote Monday on VA Secretary
• Sen. Cruz placed formal hold on Gina Raimondo's nomination as Commerce secretary
• Labor secretary nominee Walsh to get committee vote Feb. 11
• Fudge, Rouse nominations move to full Senate


China Update:
• A massive reduction in estimate for China corn stocks
• Will USDA’s World Board again stair-step boost forecast of total China corn imports?
• Australian farmers warn China trade spat will cost them $28 billion over next decade
• Chinese researchers say they found a naturally occurring ASF mutation


Trade Policy:
• South Korea’s Yoo drops out of WTO chief race


Energy & Climate Change:

• Senate blocks amendment opposing carbon tax
• Canada mulls compensation from U.S. for Keystone XL blockage
• Klobuchar, Grassley press for RFS action
• USDA climate adviser defends a USDA CCC carbon bank program
• Land O'Lakes, Microsoft in carbon credit program
• Wind power group says sector had best year ever in 2020

Food & Beverage Industry Update:
• Greek-yogurt maker Chobani considering an IPO this year
• WSJ Global Food Forum next week

Coronavirus Update:
• J&J seeks FDA authorization for one-shot vaccine
• AstraZeneca vaccine effective against U.K. variant in study


Politics & Elections:
• Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene removed from committees
• No Trump testimony
• Charlie Cook: ‘Biden is wasting his political capital’
• Nearly two-thirds of GOP voters would be likely to join a new Trump party
• Pence to join Heritage Foundation, write column for Daily Signal  
• Sen. Klobuchar proposes sweeping changes to antitrust laws
• Smartmatic files $2.7 billion suit against Fox News, Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell
• Biden made his first official visit to the State Department

Other Items of Note:
• Biden issued sharp warnings over developments in Russia and Myanmar
• Brazilian miner Vale agreed to pay $7 billion in compensation to state of Minas Gerais




Equities today: Global stocks were mixed, and Wall Street is poised to finish its strongest week of the year. The Hang Seng Index rose 175.18 points, 0.60%, at 29,288.68. Japan’s Nikkei was up 437.24 points, 1.54%, at 28,779.19. China’s Shanghai Composite fell 5.53 points, 0.16%, at 3,496.33. Investors are boosting odds for fresh round of U.S. coronavirus relief will help bolster the economy. And monthly jobs data out this morning will be closely monitored. The report showed the U.S. economy gaining 49,000 jobs in January as President Biden negotiates a relief package. It signals a stabilizing economy as Biden negotiates another round of federal relief and daily coronavirus caseloads continue to trend downward. The unemployment rate fell to 6.3%.


     U.S. equities yesterday: The Dow gained 322.26 points, 1.08%, at 31,055.86. The Nasdaq rose 167.20 points, 1.23%, at 13,777.74. The S&P 500 was up 41.57 points, 1.09%, at 3,871.74. The S&P 500 hit its sixth record close of 2021 after fresh data showed the number of people seeking unemployment benefits declined from the previous week.


     Robinhood removed trading restrictions on all stocks, including GameStop (and AMC Entertainment, as trading volume on the two stocks — and their prices — have subsided this week. GameStop shares have plunged 84% this week while AMC lost 47% as retail traders turned their attention elsewhere. The move comes a day after the platform increased limits in buying the two stocks.


     Yellen finds market infrastructure ‘resilient.’ U.S. financial regulators determined that the infrastructure of stock and commodity markets remained “resilient” during the volatility in trading seen in recent weeks. “The regulators believe the core infrastructure was resilient during high volatility and heavy trading volume,” according to a statement issued by the Treasury Department following a meeting yesterday convened by Secretary Janet Yellen. Officials also agreed that the Securities and Exchange Commission should issue a “timely study of the events.”


On tap today:


     •  U.S. nonfarm payrolls are expected to increase by 50,000 in January from a month earlier and the unemployment rate is expected to hold steady at 6.7%. (8:30 a.m. ET) UPDATE: U.S. employers added 49,000 jobs last month, returning growth to the labor market after a one-month dip. The unemployment rate fell to 6.3%. See next item for details.
     • U.S. trade deficit for December is expected to narrow to $65.7 billion from $68.14 billion a month earlier. (8:30 a.m. ET)
     • USDA farm income forecasts (first one for 2021), at 11 a.m. ET.
     • Baker Hughes rig count is out at 1 p.m. ET.
     • U.S. consumer credit for December is out at 3 p.m. ET.
     • CFTC Commitments of Traders report, 3:30 p.m. ET.


U.S. unemployment rate posts sharp decline. U.S. nonfarm payrolls rose by 49,000 in January while the unemployment rate fell to 6.3%, a drop of 0.4%, according to the January Employment report from the U.S. Department of Labor. The number of unemployed in the U.S. fell to 10.1 million. However, the Labor Department noted, “Although both measures are much lower than their April 2020 highs, they remain well above their pre-pandemic levels in February 2020 (3.5 percent and 5.7 million, respectively).” Those on temporary layoff fell to 2.7 million, still 2 million above the pre-pandemic level. The labor force participation rate was at 61.4%. Revisions to November and December were a combined 159,000 lower than the previously published levels. The big gainer for jobs was in professional and business services (up 97,000) while local government education rose 49,000 and state government education was up 36,000 and private education increased 34,000. Mining (where oil is categorized), increased 9,000 but still remains some 133,000 below a January 2019 peak. Leisure and hospitality declined by 61,000 after an even steeper drop of 536,000 in December. Retail trade saw job declines of 38,000, taking back a portion of the 135,000 increase in December. Average hourly earnings were up six cents at $29.96. Revisions to 2020 data were also released, and it showed a bigger hit to the drop at the start of the pandemic, with losses in March 250,000 greater and April declines were 142,000 larger. For all of 2020, the report said that job totals were down 20,000 versus their prior announced levels.


Biden administration is considering using executive action to forgive Americans’ federal student debt, the White House’s chief spokeswoman said Thursday, responding to pressure from Democratic lawmakers and progressive groups. President Biden has previously questioned his ability to use executive action to forgive some or all of Americans’ federal student debt. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) introduced a resolution yesterday to call on Biden to use executive action to eliminate $50,000 in student debt per borrower in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic that has left millions of Americans unemployed. “College should be a ladder up,” Schumer said. “For too many people, debt is the anchor that weighs them down and they rarely overcome it.” Speaking at a press conference with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Schumer said he has spoken with Biden about the issue and is pushing the president to be more generous with the amount of debt that would be forgiven for each borrower.


Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images


Market perspectives:


     • Outside markets: The U.S. dollar index is a bit weaker after hitting a two-month high Thursday. Nymex crude oil futures prices are higher, hit a 12-month high, and are trading around $56.75 a barrel. The yield on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury note stands at 1.136%.

     • Treasury yield curve continues to steepen, signaling some think inflation and higher rates are ahead sooner than the Federal Reserve indicates.


        Yield curve


     • CME Group raises margins on corn and wheat futures. The exchange hiked corn maintenance margins from $1,400 a contract to $1,500 per contract, a jump of 7.1%, for March. It also raised margins on wheat futures by $100 (5.6% to $1,900 per contract. Initial margins rates will be 110% of these levels. The new margins take effect after today’s close.


     • Crude oil futures are being supported by economic recovery hopes and the OPEC+ decision to stick with output reduction. U.S. crude is trading above $56.80 per barrel and Brent above $59.50 per barrel. Crude gained in overnight Asian action, with U.S. crude up 39 cents at $56.62 per barrel and Brent rising 38 cents at $59.22 per barrel.


     • USDA daily export sale: 101,600 MT corn to unknown destinations during 2020-2021


     • U.S. cotton futures are rallying on large China purchases and Texas drought. With March cotton futures approaching 85 cents, some analysts signal a shot at 89 cents ahead.


     • Ag demand: South Korea’s Nonghyup Feed Inc. purchased around 65,000 MT of corn in a private deal Thursday, possibly from the United States.


     • U.S. energy consumption won’t return to its pre-pandemic levels until 2029, although that projection is highly dependent on the pace of economic recovery, the Energy Information Administration (IEA) said this week in its Annual Energy Outlook for 2021. Energy demand for transportation will struggle to return to its previous heights because of continued restrictions on travel and people working from home during the pandemic. By the time those might be lifted, EIA projects there to be improved fuel economy in vehicles.


     U.S. air passenger demand, which was hit the hardest by the pandemic, falling by nearly two-thirds in 2020, won’t return to normal until 2025. Light-duty vehicle travel sees an earlier bounce back by 2024, but bus passenger transport doesn’t return to pre-pandemic levels until 2031.


     Bullish on production and exports: Despite the slow comeback of demand, EIA sees U.S. oil and gas production returning to historically high levels starting in 2023 and lasting through 2050.


     And the U.S. will continue to find markets for its natural gas, with EIA expecting LNG exports to more than double between 2020 and 2029.


     Caveats: All of these projections are based on EIA’s “reference case” in which there are no significant changes in policies, which seem highly unlikely. Even in that scenario, renewable energy, especially solar, will continue to be the fastest growing electricity sources.


Items in Pro Farmer's First Thing Today include (Link to subscribe to FTT):

     • Consultancy raises Brazilian crop forecasts
     • Generally dry weather for Argentina, conditions expected to remain favorable for Brazil
     • Argentine gov’t not ruling out anything in its quest to tame food inflation
     • Ukraine’s grain exports nearly 21% behind year-ago
     • China, Australia reports bird flu in wild birds




— Senate Democrats approve budget resolution, setting up Covid aid measure. Senate Democrats approved a budget resolution early this morning that will allow them to pass coronavirus relief without GOP support — assuming no Democratic senator votes no. The budget passed the Senate in a 50-50 party-line vote with Vice President Harris breaking a tie. Because senators made changes to the resolution, it now bounces back to the House where lawmakers will need to pass it for a second time as soon as today. The budget resolution doesn’t get signed into law, but it's the first step for being able to pass a subsequent coronavirus relief bill that can bypass the 60-vote legislative filibuster in the Senate/ Democrats can now craft a relief bill in the coming weeks that can pass without any Republican votes under special budget rules — though moderates like Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and others still say they want a bipartisan final product. House and Senate committees would have until Feb. 16 to write the stimulus legislation under the instructions in the budget.


     An amendment that senators passed put off any increase in the minimum wage until after the pandemic. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said that his plan for the wage increase was to phase it in over five years, not impose it immediately. Senators also agreed to a motion to block tax increases on small businesses during the pandemic, backed a fund to provide grants to bars and restaurants hit by the coronavirus crisis, and forbade $1,400 stimulus checks from going to “upper-income taxpayers,” which will be defined when the bill-writing process begins.


     The Senate narrowly voted (51-49) in favor of protecting a Trump-era rule restricting the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) joined Republicans in voting in favor of the Trump administration’s Navigable Waters Protection Rule (NWPR), which redefined the Obama-era WOTUS rule, the wetlands, ponds, streams and rivers that are regulated under the Clean Water Act.


     An anti-biofuels amendment sponsored by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) was easily defeated. The biofuels amendment, defeated 26-74, called for allowing the issuance of credits, or Renewable Identification Numbers/RINs, of just 10 cents a gallon for conventional ethanol. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) accused Cruz of hypocrisy, saying he was a “free-market person” trying to interfere in the RINs market. “This is big oil vs. clean-burning ethanol,” Grassley said.


     The Senate voted 58-42 to prohibit stimulus checks from going to illegal immigrants. Eight Democrats joined Republicans to support that amendment, sponsored by Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.).


   Bottom line: A big aid package is coming, but with some changes from the initially announced $1.9 trillion package pushed by Biden. Later today, the monthly jobs report will provide an important gauge of the strength of the economic recovery and could influence lawmakers as they haggle over the small print for a huge stimulus.


— Biden will raise cap on refugee admissions to 125,000. President Biden announced Thursday he plans to increase the cap on the number of refugees allowed into the U.S. after his predecessor Donald Trump slashed it dramatically while in office. Biden aims to raise the refugee cap to 125,000 — a stark rise from Trump’s 15,000 refugee limit last year — starting Oct. 1. “I’m approving an executive order to begin the hard work of restoring our refugee admissions program to help meet the unprecedented global need,” the president said in a speech at the State Department. “It’s going to take time to rebuild what has been so badly damaged.”



—  Senate to Vote Monday on VA Secretary. The Senate will vote Monday at 5:30 p.m. ET on nomination of Denis McDonough to be secretary of Veterans Affairs. The vote may be the last confirmation of Biden’s Cabinet before the Trump impeachment trial begins on Tuesday.


— Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) placed a formal hold on Gina Raimondo's nomination to be the next Commerce secretary, which delays a full Senate floor vote, citing concerns that she may not be committed to keeping Huawei Technologies Co. on a trade blacklist. Raimondo told members of the Senate Commerce Committee earlier this week in written responses to their questions that she saw "no reason to believe that entities on those lists should not be there.”

— Labor secretary nominee Walsh to get committee vote Feb. 11. President Joe Biden’s nominee for labor secretary, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, is scheduled for the first of two Senate confirmation votes Feb. 11. The Senate labor panel is expected to approve Walsh’s nomination with support from at least some Republicans, including Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), the committee’s ranking member. Walsh will then have to win approval from the 50-50 split Senate to receive final confirmation. He’s poised to be the first union member in nearly half a century to serve as labor secretary, though he promised at his Feb. 4 confirmation hearing to work with Republicans.


— Fudge, Rouse nominations move to full Senate. The Senate Banking Committee Thursday approved the nominations of Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio) to be secretary of Housing and Urban Development and Cecilia Rouse to head the Council of Economic Advisors. The vote on Rouse was 24-to-zero while Fudge was approved 17-7. 



A massive reduction in estimate for China corn stocks. The UN FAO’s new forecast for world cereal stocks stands at 802 million tonnes, down as much as 64.3 million tonnes from December and 17.8 million tonnes (2.2%) from their opening levels and the smallest in five years (link).  At this level, the world stocks-to-use ratio of cereals would decline from 29.7% in 2019-20 to 28.3% in 2020-21, marking a seven-year low. Following this month’s downward revision of 66.6 million tonnes (concerning mostly corn inventories and to a lesser extent also stocks of sorghum and other coarse grains), world coarse grain stocks will likely fall by 25 million tonnes (6.9%) from their opening levels, to reach 336 million tonnes. FAO said the year-on-year contraction stems from a massive downward adjustment to corn inventories in China, which are now pegged at around 139 million tonnes, down nearly 54 million tonnes from the December forecast and 11.6 million tonnes below their opening levels. Besides China, FAO forecasts for corn inventories in Argentina, the European Union, India, and, most significantly, the United States of America, were also trimmed since December.


     The revisions by FAO were in direct response to China's corn buying binge: "Prompted by China’s unexpectedly large imports of [corn] so far this season, FAO decided to undertake a further review of its corn supply and demand balance sheet for China."


     More details: The FAO raised its global corn utilization forecast for 2020-21 to 1.179 billion tonnes, up 21.4 million tonnes from 2019/20, with China’s use pegged at 190 million tonnes, up 15.5 million tonnes from December. China’s 2020/21 corn carryover is now pegged at around 139 million tonnes, down nearly 54 million tonnes from December. The agency puts China’s corn imports at 20 million tonnes, up 10 million from December.


— Will USDA’s World Board again stair-step boost its forecast of total China corn imports in WASDE report next Tuesday? USDA's official estimate for China's 2020-21 corn imports stands at 17.5 million tonnes, while USDA's Beijing attaché estimates the number at 22 MT. Market sources expect the USDA to officially raise its China's corn import estimate closer to that of the attaché in its February World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates, due Feb. 9. There are certain analysts estimating a Chinese corn import figure as high as 30 MMT. Meanwhile, traders continue to discuss whether or not China will eventually look to cancel some recent purchases, once they feel more secure about the size and timing of Brazil’s safrinha corn crop, which accounts for approximately 70% of total Brazil corn production and is harvested primarily during May – July.


— Australian farmers warn China trade spat will cost them $28 billion over next decade. In a pre-budget submission published today, the National Farmers’ Federation appealed to the government to invest A$3.5bn (US$2.66 billion) to support a trade strategy aimed at diversifying the nation’s export markets and improving supply chains. The industry’s goal of boosting the annual value of farm production to A$100bn by 2030 will be “severely challenged” by trade disruption unless more support can be provided by Canberra, it warned. Beijing has targeted Australia’s farm sector over the past 18 months after Canberra called for an international probe into the origins of Covid-19 and resisted Beijing’s more aggressive foreign policy. “Recent disruptions will cost the industry A$36.9bn this decade,” said Tony Mahar, chief executive of the NFF, Australia’s main national lobby group for farmers. “To counter these headwinds, a long-term trade strategy that deepens existing markets, diversifies export destinations, improves supply chains and builds domestic value-adding capabilities is a must.”


— Chinese researchers say they have found a naturally occurring ASF mutation. Chinese researchers say they have found a national mutation of the African swine fever virus that may be less deadly than the one that decimated China’s herd in 2018 and 2019. There have recently been reports about a new strain of ASF spreading again in China and resulting in fewer healthy piglets per litter, with use of illegal vaccines being suspected as the cause.  The researchers at the Military Veterinary Institute in Changchun said there appeared to be a growing trend of lower mortality from ASF with more clinical symptoms that are not easy to detect and difficult to control, similar to reports about cases reportedly stemming from the vaccines. The new strain is dubbed HuB20.


U.S./China Phase 1 tracker: China’s purchases of U.S. goods. Link




—  South Korea’s Yoo drops out of WTO chief race. The next leader of the WTO appears set to be former Nigerian finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala in the wake of South Korean Trade, Industry and Energy Minister Yoo Myung-hee ending her bid to lead the world trade body. "Due to the prolonged vacancy of the leadership at the WTO, the future of the organization also has become uncertain," Yoo said at a briefing in Seoul, according to Yonhap News. "To speed up the consensus building among the member countries on selecting a new director-general, I have decided to renounce my candidacy through close cooperation with the United States, our strong ally." Her last statement suggests she has coordinated the withdrawal or at least alerted the US to her decision. The Trump administration had blocked the naming of Nigeria’s Okonjo-Iweala, with then-U.S. Trade Representative Bob Lighthizer arguing that the trade body needed to be headed up by someone with trade experience.




— Senate blocks amendment opposing carbon tax. The Senate blocked a Republican amendment opposing a carbon tax on a 50-50 vote early today. Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) had forced the nonbinding messaging vote with Democrats already eying a major climate package later this year.


     The all-night amendment votes yielded votes on other largely symbolic measures that do indicate how senators would vote on the issues at a later time. The chamber adopted amendments that would prohibit the Council on Environmental Quality and EPA from banning fracking, offered by Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.). The Senate also adopted an amendment from Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) to improve the relations between the U.S. and Canada with regard to the Keystone XL pipeline. A measure from Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) was adopted to support schools with lost revenue due to moratorium on oil and gas leasing. However, just before final adoption, the Senate stripped out three amendments, including the measures on the Keystone pipeline and fracking. Those measures could have caused the budget to lose votes in the House, which could take up the Senate measure today.


— Canada mulls compensation from U.S. for Keystone XL blockage. The oil-rich Canadian province that was hit hard by Biden’s move to kill the Keystone XL pipeline is considering seeking compensation from the U.S. through an old free-trade rule that’s still in place. Alberta, which spent C$1.5 billion ($1.2 billion) to help jump start construction of the project, may resort to a North American Free Trade Agreement provision allowing compensation claims for lost investments, an official from Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s office said. While NAFTA was replaced by the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement during the Trump administration, the rule remains in place during a phase-out period.


— Klobuchar, Grassley press for RFS action. Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) led a letter (link) to acting EPA Administrator Jane Nishida asking the agency to review small refinery waivers, issue a proposed rule for the 2021 Renewable Volume Obligation for corn ethanol, and advance a proposed E15 streamlining measure. The senators said those steps and others would “provide certainty and stability to the renewable fuels marketplace,” according to a statement (link).


— USDA climate adviser defends a USDA CCC carbon bank program. “Carbon is a commodity right now,” said Robert Bonnie, USDA's deputy chief of staff for policy, during a panel discussion hosted by AGree, a Meridian Institute initiative that works on food and agriculture issues. USDA’s Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) was established to stabilize and help sell commodities, he said, pushing the idea as a potentially more “flexible” approach that could complement existing conservation program. But Bonnie stressed it’s “important” for the Biden administration to work to get Congress’ buy-in on the issue.


     Senate Agriculture ranking member John Boozman (R-Ark.) said he doesn’t believe Vilsack has the authority to create a carbon bank without Congress.


     In other remarks, Bonnie said USDA needs to develop more ways to reduce the financial risks farmers, ranchers and foresters face when they spend money on new practices like cover crops or new infrastructure like improved irrigation or a methane digester. “Those things have a price tag,” he said. “We need to think about how we de-risk those investments for producers.”


     The Biden administration expects to move slowly on climate mitigation in agriculture, beginning with two months of consultations with producers and other interested parties before drafting its plan of action. “I think it will be fair to say we will aggressively pursue an effort to get farmer input to make sure that the programs that we design and the programs that we advance are ones that will work out in the field,” said USDA Secretary nominee Tom Vilsack on Tuesday.


— Land O'Lakes, Microsoft in carbon credit program. Truterra, a subsidiary of farmer-owned Land O'Lakes, launched a carbon credit program on Thursday in which Microsoft, its first buyer, will pay $20 per ton for carbon sequestered in the soil. The program "will help farmers generate and sell carbon credits to private sector buyers," said the company.


— Wind power group says sector had its best year ever in 2020. New wind power capacity increased by 85% in 2020 compared with 2019 as the industry added 16,913 megawatts (MW) of wind power capacity to the grid in 2020 — enough to power more than 5 million American homes, according to the American Clean Power Association (ACP). Much of that growth was focused in the fourth quarter of 2020 with the commissioning of 10,593 MW of capacity on 54 new projects across 20 states.


     There are now 122,478 MW of operating wind power capacity in the U.S., providing enough power for 38 million American homes.


     “2020 was a banner year for the wind industry,” said ACP CEO Heather Zichal. “Despite all the challenges Covid-19 placed on our businesses, we still shattered nearly every record for capacity and growth. The fourth quarter was not only the strongest quarter on record, but it also saw more wind installed in just that quarter than in any full year in the modern industry’s 40 plus year history, except 2012.”


     One factor in the fourth quarter rise was the expected end to federal tax incentives, prompting those in the industry to push projections to completion by the end of 2020.


     At a state level, Texas led with 2,197 MW installed during the fourth quarter, followed by Wyoming (895 MW), Oklahoma (866 MW), Iowa (861 MW), and Missouri (786 MW).




— Greek-yogurt maker Chobani is considering an IPO this year valuing it at $7 billion to $10 billion.


— WSJ Global Food Forum next week. The WSJ’s virtual forum on the global business of food takes place Feb. 9. The event will look at the effects of the pandemic and shifts in trade, as climate change, sustainability and food security come into ever-sharper focus. The event is set to include, among others, Kimbal Musk, co-founder of The Kitchen Restaurant Group, Big Green and Square Roots; Janusz Wojciechowski, European commissioner for agriculture; and Gabrielle Rubenstein, founder and CEO of private equity firm Manna Tree.




 Summary: Global cases of Covid-19 are at 104,935,668 with 2,286,170 deaths, according to data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. The U.S. case count is at 26,679,633 with 455,875 deaths.

       Link to Covid Case Tracker
       Link to Our World in Data


— J&J seeks FDA authorization for one-shot vaccine. If the FDA follows the same timeline as for the first two Covid-19 vaccines, it could reach a decision on J&J’s vaccine by the end of the month.


— AstraZeneca vaccine effective against U.K. variant in study. The AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine showed a 75% efficacy rate against the U.K. coronavirus variant, the university said.




— Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene removed from committees. The House voted 230-199 to remove the Georgia Republican from the Budget and Education committees after past comments embracing conspiracy theories and political violence. Eleven Republicans joined Democrats. The 11 Republicans who voted with Democrats largely represented competitive districts, including a cluster of lawmakers from New York and Florida. Only three of the 11 Republicans had voted last month to impeach Trump: Reps. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, Fred Upton of Michigan and John Katko of New York. Some of Greene’s fellow GOP freshmen voted to oust her from committees, including Reps. Nicole Malliotakis of New York, Young Kim of California, and Carlos Gimenez and Maria Salazar of Florida.


— No Trump testimony. Former President Donald Trump's lawyers rejected a request to testify at his Senate impeachment trial next week. It's not clear whether Democrats will subpoena him.


— Voting technology company Smartmatic filed a $2.7 billion suit against Fox News, Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell. The suit, filed in New York state court, alleges that the company was the target of a "disinformation campaign" that posed an existential threat to the business.


— President Joe Biden made his first official visit to the State Department. He said "diplomacy is back at the center" of U.S. foreign policy as he announced the U.S. will end all support for offensive operations in Yemen and will appoint an envoy to focus on the long-standing conflict.


— Charlie Cook: ‘Biden is wasting his political capital.' Cook writes: “What is surprising, at least to me, is just how Biden and his White House have been playing this over the last week, especially compared with how he portrayed himself during the campaign. While ‘take it or leave it’ demands are certainly not new to politics or the legislative process, it is rather odd that the White House’s initial offer has also become its final demand. Democrats’ immediate and instinctive threat to ram their package through using the budget-reconciliation process, which would require only a simple majority rather than a filibuster-proof supermajority, was tone deaf to say the least. One might have assumed that Biden had made a campaign pledge to never negotiate with Republicans.”


     Comments: Some other analysts say Biden is likely either assuming he will serve just one term or that he will only have two years with a Democratic majority in the House and Senate and, if so, why not go all out on what you want?


— Nearly two-thirds of GOP voters would be likely to join a new Trump party. A majority of Republican voters would likely join a new political party if former President Donald Trump starts one, a national survey of Republicans found. Sixty-four percent of Republicans said they would be inclined toward joining a Trump-formed party like the “MAGA Party” or the “Patriot Party.” Among that figure, 32% said they would be very likely to join one. Thirty-six percent of respondents said they would be either somewhat or very unlikely to leave the GOP. (Source: White House Dossier)


— Pence to join Heritage Foundation, write column for Daily Signal. Former Vice President Mike Pence will be joining the Heritage Foundation as a distinguished visiting fellow. “The Heritage Foundation is a flagship of the conservative movement and I am profoundly honored to join them as a distinguished visiting fellow to advance conservative solutions that will benefit every American,” Pence, who left office on Jan. 20, said in a statement. In the new role, Pence will advise Heritage Foundation experts on public policy issues, deliver a series of speeches on policy solutions, and write a monthly column for The Daily Signal, the think tank’s multimedia news outlet.


— Sen. Klobuchar introduces antitrust reform bill, including look at ag sector. The Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) the incoming Senate Judiciary antitrust chair, on Thursday a major revamp that would make it much harder for the biggest U.S. companies to do deals. Any company with more than $100 billion in annual revenue would have a far higher bar for acquisitions: they’d need to show that the merger would not hamper competition. Based on the Fortune 500 rankings for 2020, that would affect leading tech platforms like Apple, Amazon, Google and Microsoft; telecoms like AT&T and Verizon; and cable company Comcast. The most important piece of the legislation will be increasing funding for the FTC and DOJ, agencies Klobuchar called “shadows of their former selves” with fewer employees today than during the Reagan Administration in 1984. “You can’t take on the biggest companies the world has ever known with Band-Aids and duct tape,” she said in an interview with Politico.


     Klobuchar’s antitrust panel is planning a series of hearings on how monopolies and a lack of competition are impacting specific industries. Klobuchar said she plans to hold sessions on tech, telecom and communications, pharmaceuticals and agriculture, among other areas.




— President Biden issued sharp warnings over developments in Russia and Myanmar, and declared several policy shifts, including an increase in refugee admissions and a freeze on troop withdrawals from Germany. In his first foreign-policy speech as president, Biden reaffirmed Saudi Arabia as a key partner, but said the U.S. would end support for Saudi-led military operations in Yemen. He also named veteran diplomat Timothy Lenderking as a special envoy for Yemen, seeking a diplomatic resolution.


     Russia, as expected, rejected Biden’s comments, characterizing them as “aggressive, unconstructive rhetoric” and said they would not bow to any US ultimatums. “This is very aggressive, unconstructive rhetoric, to our regret,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.


— Brazilian miner Vale agreed to pay $7 billion in compensation to the state of Minas Gerais, where the collapse of its dam two years ago killed 270 people, polluted rivers and obliterated the surrounding landscape. The miner’s shares, up about 60% since the disaster in the city of Brumadinho, initially rose after news of the settlement, signaling investors’ hopes that the company can finally move past the disaster.



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