House to vote today on boosting aid payouts to $2,000 from $600, Senate fate murky
In Today’s Updates
• Equities rally in part on Trump signing of aid/spending measure
• Oil prices expected to edge higher in 2021 and global oil demand should jump
• Soybean price surge to $18?
• Japan central bankers split on tweaks to stimulus efforts
• Bitcoin broke through $24,000 in a big way on Christmas day
• Argentine export companies hike salary offer in a bid to end an extended strike
• SovEcon slashes Russian wheat export forecast
• Ukraine has used up more than 70% of its wheat export quota
• Egyptian supply minister expects wheat prices to stabilize
• Trump signs 5,593-page Covid aid, FY 2021 spending package, avoiding gov’t shutdown
• What's in the Covid aid bill for cattle producers?
• China's corn imports exceed TRQ for first time… Dim Sums reviews
• China imports of U.S. crude soared in November
• China to hold another auction of its frozen pork reserves
• China cuts off imports of poultry from Ireland.
• Alibaba shares
• Report: China will surpass America as world’s largest economy in 2028
• After trade deal with EU, British gov’t seeks to sell it to the people
Energy & Climate Change:
• Rockefeller Foundation to divest from fossil fuels
• Japan to phase out gasoline-powered cars
Food & beverage industry update:
• Brazil is famous for its meat, but vegetarianism is soaring
• U.S. mandates negative Covid test for flights from the United Kingdom
• Frontline essential workers in Phase 1b of vaccine distribution
• EU begins mass-vaccination campaign
• South Korea confirms first cases of variant Covid strain
Politics & Elections:
• Slim Dem majority in new House
• Northeast, Midwest would lose seats in latest census estimate
• Georgia runoffs test Democrats in turning out Black voters
Other Items of Note:
• Nashville bombing suspect died in explosion, police say
• Cotton AWP rises further above 60 cents
Equities today: Global stock markets were mostly up overnight. U.S. stock indexes are pointed toward higher openings.
U.S. equities Thursday: The Dow closed up 70.04 points, 0.23%, at 30,199.87. The Nasdaq gained 33.62 points, 0.26%, at 12,804.73. The S&P 500 rose 13.05 points, 0.35%, at 3,703.06.
With just five trading days left in the year, tThe Russell 2000 is up 20% for the year, while the Dow and S&P 500 are up 5.6% and 16%, respectively and the Nasdaq is up 43%.
Japan central bankers split on tweaks to stimulus efforts. Bank of Japan governors were not unified at the Dec. 17-18 meeting on how far to tweak their stimulus effort as some members called for a more-aggressive review of the effort as impacts from Covid have fanned concerns over deflation, according to a recap of views at the meeting. Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda said the review will not bring big changes to their yield curve control measures and would be focused on fine-tuning their effort. This situation underscores the challenges that central bankers around the globe are starting to focus on — the lack of inflationary pressures and the potential for deflation to emerge as the pandemic continues to drag on portions of the global economy.
• Outside markets: The U.S. dollar index is slightly lower in early U.S. trading. February Nymex crude oil futures prices firmer and trading around $48.50 a barrel. The yield on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury note futures is currently around 0.956%.
• Crude oil futures have risen on Trump signing the Covid aid package, with U.S. crude moving above $48.65 per barrel and Brent above $51.70 per barrel. Crude oil prices were under light pressure in Asian action overnight, with U.S. crude down nine cents at $48.14 per barrel while Brent crude was down 12 cents at $51.22 per barrel.
• Oil prices will edge higher in 2021 and global oil demand should jump by 6.6 million barrels per day from 2020 levels as coronavirus restrictions are gradually lifted, beginning with the first quarter, according to Wood Mackenzie analysts. Upstream investments are expected to hold steady at roughly $300 billion, said Fraser McKay, Wood Mac's head of upstream analysis, adding, "Projects will increasingly be judged on their environmental, social and corporate governance credentials."
• Soybean price surge to $18? Continuing dryness could cause irreparable damage to this year’s Brazilian soybean crop and send futures as high as $18 a bushel, up from $12.43 recently, according to a recent Teucrium report cited in the weekly Barron’s (link). Sal Gilbertie is founder and CEO of commodity exchange-traded fund company Teucrium Trading. “We could have a serious lowering of the crop estimates over the next three months” he told Barron’s.
• Bitcoin broke through $24,000 in a big way on Christmas day, and then took out $25K, $26K, $27K and $28K over the ensuing 36 hours, before pulling back — it's now hovering at $26,700.
Items in Pro Farmer's First Thing Today include (Link to subscribe to FTT):
• Argentine export companies hike salary offer in a bid to end an extended strike
• SovEcon slashes Russian wheat export forecast
• Ukraine has used up more than 70% of its wheat export quota
• Egyptian supply minister expects wheat prices to stabilize
— Trump signs 5,593-page Covid aid, FY 2021 spending package, avoiding gov’t shutdown. President Donald Trump ended the recent suspense an signed a bill to release nearly $900 billion in coronavirus stimulus spending on Sunday night after previously blocking a deal he had described as a “disgrace.” Trump’s decision to approve the $2.3 trillion measure includes $1.4 trillion that will fund the U.S. government through the end of next September and avoid a shutdown that was set to start after midnight this evening.
However, in an accompanying statement, Trump reiterated his demand that Congress increase the direct payment checks sent to Americans from $600 to $2,000 per individual. The Democratic-controlled House is set to vote to increase the stimulus checks from $600 to $2,000 today. It is unclear how the Republican-controlled Senate will respond to Trump’s request. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) issued a statement applauding Trump for signing the bill, but did not address the issue of increasing Covid aid payments.
Trump said that he would return the signed legislation to Congress with a “formal rescission request” for certain “wasteful” line items to be removed despite the fact it has now been put into law. House Democrats said they do not plan to vote on the request. “The House Appropriations Committee has jurisdiction over rescissions, and our Democratic majority will reject any rescissions submitted by President Trump,” said Representative Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), the chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee. “By turning the page on this request, we will allow the Biden-Harris administration to begin to build back better.”
Trump’s approval came after two unemployment programs lapsed, guaranteeing a delay in benefits for millions of unemployed Americans.
— What's in the Covid aid bill for cattle producers?
Livestock Dealer Statutory Trust: The bill ensures that livestock producers are paid for their animals by requiring dealer trusts. In the current system, dealers frequently buy and resell livestock, often grouping them to meet the volume and type needs of their customers. Dealers are allowed to take possession of livestock and pay for them later, and dealers do not maintain a trust account to guarantee payment.
Livestock Mandatory Price Reporting: This bill included a one-year authorization to livestock mandatory reporting, extending the law until September 30, 2021.
Independent Processing Provisions: The bill also aims to assist meat and poultry processing facilities in making improvements to allow for interstate shipment. While doing this, it would require a study on programs for meat and poultry processing and slaughtering facilities.
Livestock Transportation: The bill included an extension of the current exemption of the Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs) mandate for livestock haulers through September 30, 2021.
Supplemental Payments (CFAP 3): The bill provides additional assistance for cattle producers impacted during the height of the pandemic. You may qualify for CFAP 3 even if you did not participate in the previous programs.
Below are charts from Farm Bureau detailing the likely payment structure:
— China's corn imports exceed TRQ for first time. China has imported 9 million metric tons (MMT) of corn in the first 11 months of 2020, China's largest-ever corn import total, according to an assessment of the topic by Dim Sums: Rural China Economics and Policy. The corn import total exceeded the country's 7.2-MMT tariff rate quota (TRQ) for the first time as of October after falling short of the quota every year since it was established in 2001. An additional 1.23 MMT imported during November pushed the 2020 total even further beyond the quota.
Source: China customs statistics
China's January-November 2020 imports of corn from the United States totaled 3.285 MMT, a more than 10-fold increase from the 2019 total and the largest total since 2013. While efforts to meet purchase commitments from the U.S. in the Phase 1 agreement are one factor behind the surge, Ukraine remains the top supplier of China's imported corn in 2020 with over 5.2 MMT. Imports from Ukraine also increased this year. Other countries — including Bulgaria, Russia, Laos, and Myanmar — supplied 531,000 MT of corn through November, up nearly 200,000 MT from the 2019 total.
China's imports of corn, sorghum, barley, DDGS, and cassava combined totaled 23.6 MMT in Jan-Nov 2020. That total is up 9 MMT from 2019, but about "normal" in historical context, according to Dim Sums. Combined corn-sorghum-barley-DDGS-cassava imports peaked at over 42 MMT during 2015 when Chinese feed mills were eager to find substitutes for pricey domestic corn. The non-corn feed imports deflated in 2016 and subsequent years with the end of the corn price support, anti-dumping/countervailing duties on U.S. DDGS and sorghum, a new set of duties imposed during the trade war, and AD/CV duties on Australian barley this year. In 2020, sorghum imports bounced back after retaliatory duties were lifted, but imports of DDGS remain minimal.
The surge in 2020 imports may reflect a plan to refill reserves with cheaper imported grain.
China still doesn't reveal which companies receive import quota and public statistics do not reveal which companies import grain, Dim Sums noted. However, corn import statistics tabulated by the province where importers are registered “give us a clue about the dominant role of COFCO.” Customs data show that companies headquartered in Beijing accounted for nearly all the surge in 2020 corn imports. As of October (data have not been released for November), 52% of this year's corn had been imported by Beijing-registered companies. “COFCO almost certainly accounted for nearly all of these imports since most big Chinese agribusiness companies are headquartered outside Beijing.” The increase in corn imports this year by companies based in Shandong and Fujian Provinces “was unremarkable. Corn imports by Guangdong-based companies went down this year.”
There was a signal earlier this year that the surge in corn imports reflects a program to refill government reserves with imported corn, Dim Sums said. On April 22, 2020, a "rumor" spread that Chinese authorities were considering a plan to restock commodity reserves with "10 MMTof soybeans, 20 MMT of corn, and some cotton, sugar and vegetable oil." The plan was said to be motivated to calm markets during the pandemic, take advantage of low international prices, and to meet Phase 1 agreement commitments to purchase U.S. commodities. China Grain Net described the reserve restocking plan as a "rumor" that needed to be confirmed by the government, but no confirmation was ever given. Yet the surge in imports of corn, wheat, and cotton this year and the predominance of Beijing-based companies appear to be consistent with the plan, Dim Sums noted.
It is unclear how corn imports exceeded the quota. The margin between Chinese and international prices is not wide enough to justify imports at the out-of-quota 65% tariff. There is speculation that the government subsidizes grain imported for reserves or exempts reserve grain from tariffs, but that has never been announced publicly. The 2019 WTO panel report on China's TRQ dispute revealed that China has a history of managing the TRQ in an opaque, arbitrary manner, “and this may be more of the same.” Chinese officials have announced that the TRQ will again be set at 7.2 MMT in 2021 despite reports of purchase commitments for U.S. corn that exceed this amount.
The 40% increase in China's corn futures prices since the beginning of 2020 has been concentrated in the northern part of the country. Guangdong Province — one of the two largest feed-milling provinces — has backed off from purchasing domestic corn from northeastern provinces, instead stepping up imports of sorghum and barley (perhaps also feed wheat), Dim Sums said. “Consequently, corn inventories at northeastern Chinese ports have built up to record levels.”
In contrast to corn, customs data show sorghum is imported primarily by companies in southern provinces: Guangdong, Fujian, and Shanghai. Beijing companies imported minimal amounts of sorghum in 2020. “Almost nobody imported sorghum during 2019 at the peak of the trade war (and at the nadir of swine losses to the African swine fever virus),” according to Dim Sums. Sorghum imports have bounced back in 2020, but they are still relatively low. “Thus, the larger corn imports are to some extent offset by low imports of sorghum and other feeds restrained by other duties.”
*2020 data through October
China's corn prices have some room to rise further in 2021 and corn imports could reach 20-to-30 MMT, according to futures analysts interviewed by China's Futures Daily last week. However, Dim Sums said there are several uncertain factors that could affect the corn market and agricultural markets more broadly, including the potential for a global food price increase in a post-Covid era, possible warming of U.S./China relations, expansion of corn production in China next year, and impacts of weather on corn production.
— China imports of U.S. crude soared in November. China imported 3.61 million tonnes of U.S. crude in November, about 878,839 barrels per day (bpd), according to data from the General Administration of Customs. China’s November 2019 imports of U.S. crude were 0.26 million tonnes and its imports in October totaled 1.625 million tonnes. The November total was still shy of the record set in September of 3.9 million tonnes. Saudi oil shipments to China were at 8.48 million tonnes, up 3.3% from year ago. January-November Chinese oil imports from the U.S. are at 16.16 million tonnes, 154.5% higher than year ago while imports from Saudi Arabia were at 77.98 million tonnes, up 2.2% from the same period in 2019.
— U.S./China Phase 1 tracker: China’s purchases of U.S. goods. Link.
— China to hold another auction of its frozen pork reserves. China announced it will auction 20,000 MT of frozen pork from its state reserves on Dec. 30, the country’s Merchandise Reserve Management Center said on Friday. The country also sold 20,000 MT of reserve pork last week in preparation for its Lunar New Year festivities.
— China cuts off imports of poultry from Ireland. China has banned poultry imports from Ireland due to an outbreak of H5N8 bird flu, the customs administration announced late last week. The ban took effect Dec. 25. Much of Europe is dealing with avian flu.
— Alibaba shares plunge. Despite the announcement of a share-buyback program worth $10 billion, Alibaba’s share price fell by nearly a tenth after it emerged over the weekend that China’s central bank had demanded a regulatory shake-up at Ant Group, Alibaba’s fintech subsidiary. Last week Chinese regulators opened an antitrust probe into Ant’s activities. Alibaba said it would co-operate with the investigation.
— China will surpass America as the world’s largest economy in 2028, five years sooner than previously estimated, according to a new report by the Center for Economics and Business Research (CEBR), a think-tank. The accelerated timeline is because of the two countries’ contrasting responses to the economic damage wrought by Covid-19. China looked set for average economic growth of 5.7% a year from 2021-25 before slowing to 4.5% a year from 2026-30.
While the U.S. was likely to have a strong post-pandemic rebound in 2021, its growth would slow to 1.9% a year between 2022 and 2024, and then to 1.6% after that.
Japan would remain the world’s third-biggest economy, in dollar terms, until the early 2030s when it would be overtaken by India, pushing Germany down from fourth to fifth.
The United Kingdom, currently the fifth-biggest economy by the CEBR’s measure, would slip to sixth place from 2024.
— Having reached a trade deal with the EU, the British government sought to sell it to the people. Boris Johnson, the prime minister, boasted of having secured free trade without being “drawn into [the EU’s] regulatory or legislative orbit.” Britain’s chancellor of the exchequer spoke of making the City of London the world’s “most attractive place to list new companies” — despite the prime minister earlier admitting the deal does not do much for financial-services firms. "The deal is done, but with big change comes challenge and opportunity," Cabinet Secretary Michael Gove said in a statement, adding that U.K. businesses need to adjust to the departure from the EU's single market.
ENERGY & CLIMATE CHANGE
— Rockefeller Foundation to divest from fossil fuels. The $5 billion Rockefeller Foundation, founded by oil magnate John D. Rockefeller, is kicking fossil fuel investments to the curb in a push to accelerate the world's sustainable energy transition. "Burning fossil fuels is not necessary to sustain our economy and economic growth over the long run -- and it's detrimental to our climate future," said President Rajiv Shah, while urging other organizations to follow suit.
— Japan to phase out gasoline-powered cars. Japan said it planned to stop the sale of new gasoline-powered cars by the mid-2030s, amid criticism by Toyota Motor’s chief that a hasty shift to electric vehicles could cripple the car industry. Japan would still permit the sale of hybrid gas-electric cars after 2035 under the plan — Japanese automakers are also expected to produce gas- and diesel-engined cars well after this date, for export to other countries. Toyota President Akio Toyoda said the electricity grid couldn’t handle extra summer demand and observed that most of Japan’s electricity is generated by burning fossil fuels.
A new vehicle market consisting of only hybrid and electric automobiles would be a significant shift, given they only make up about 29% of Japan’s 5.2 million new motor vehicle registrations, according to Japan’s Automobile Manufacturers Association.
Timeline. Hiroki Aoki, director of the economy ministry’s automotive strategy planning office, said the ministry has not officially released its target relating to Japan’s future new car market. The ministry is still in the planning phase and is aiming to announce an official target by the end of the year.
Incentives. The strategy identified 14 industries, such as offshore wind, hydrogen and fuel ammonia as well as autos and rechargeable batteries and roadmap for each sector. The strategy shows an installation target for offshore wind power of up to 45 gigawatts by 2040. Under the strategy, the government is also to provide tax incentives and other support to encourage investment into green technology and projected an annual growth of 90 trillion yen ($870 billion) by 2030 and 190 trillion yen ($1.8 trillion) by 2050. The government will offer tax incentives and other financial support to companies, such as a 2 trillion yen ($19 billion) green fund.
Japan joining other countries. Seventeen countries including France, the U.K. and Germany have adopted goals to phase out internal combustion passenger cars, according to the International Council on Clean Transportation, a nonprofit that supports decarbonizing fuels. The U.K. said last month it would end the sale of new cars that run only on fossil fuels by 2030. France has also pledged to take new gasoline and diesel-powered vehicles off the market by 2040. In China, the head of a panel advising the government on the matter said in September that the country shouldn’t set a firm timeline for phasing out of cars that run on fossil fuels. The panel proposed a new-energy vehicle target of 15% to 25% for 2025, with this figure rising to 50% to 60% for 2035. Singapore plans to phase out fossil-fuel powered cars by 2040. California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an order in late September that aims to end the sale of new gasoline and diesel-powered passenger cars in the state by 2035.
FOOD & BEVERAGE INDUSTRY
— Brazil, the world’s largest beef exporter, has seen a dramatic shift toward plant-based diets. The number of self-declared vegetarians in Brazil has nearly doubled over a six-year period, according to a poll by the research firm Ibope; 30 million people, or 14% of Brazilians, reported being vegetarian or vegan in 2018. Mainstream supermarkets now stock foods made from plant-based protein next to its meat, poultry and fish. Outback Steakhouse, one of the most popular chain restaurants in Brazil, early this year launched a burger made with broccoli and cauliflower. Brazil-based JBS, the world’s largest meat-processing company, last year launched a line of plant-based products that are marketed as having the same texture and taste as meat. Link to more via the New York Times.
— Summary: Global cases of Covid-19 have cleared 80 million, standing at 80,844,732 with 1,766,194 deaths, according to data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. The U.S. case count has exceeded 19 million at 19,136,589 with 333,140 deaths.
— U.S. mandates negative Covid test for flights from the United Kingdom. The U.S. will require airline passengers coming from the U.K. to test negative for coronavirus before flying, the CDC announced Thursday evening, amid reports of the spread there of a new strain of Covid-19 that health authorities believe is significantly more contagious. Passengers will have to test negative within three days before flying and must be denied boarding if they refuse to be tested, the CDC said. The restriction will be put into force as of today (Dec. 28).
— Frontline essential workers in Phase 1b of vaccine distribution:
* First responders (firefighters, police)
* Education (teachers, support staff, daycare)
* Food and agriculture
* Corrections workers
* U.S. Postal Service workers
* Public transit workers
* Grocery store workers
— The EU began a mass-vaccination campaign, with doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine available in all 27 member states. Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, described the coordinated roll-out as “a touching moment of unity”. The bloc has recorded more than 14m cases of Covid-19 and more than 335,000 deaths.
— South Korea confirms first cases of variant Covid strain. The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency announced that the first cases of a more-contagious variant of the Covid-19 virus that was first discovered in the U.K. have been found in South Korea. The agency said the cases were in a family that arrived in the country from the U.K. on Dec. 22. The three are under quarantine, officials said.
POLITICS & ELECTIONS
— Slim Dem majority in new House. In the new Congress that begins Sunday, Jan. 3, Democrats have 222 House seats to Republicans’ 211, with two races uncalled. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is seeking the support to keep the gavel for another term. The proxy-voting rule expires with the new Congress, requiring lawmakers to be in the Capitol in person if they want to participate in the Jan. 3 floor vote for Speaker. The House will adopt a new rules package governing the 117th Congress just after the Speaker vote. At least three moderate members of the caucus are already on record saying they don't intend to vote for Pelosi on Jan. 3: Reps. Conor Lamb (Pa.), Jared Golden (Maine) and Elissa Slotkin (Mich.). Complicating matters: It’s unclear how many lawmakers might be forced to quarantine during the first week of next year.
One rule the Democrats could alter is the current ban on earmarks. An earmark is a provision inserted into a discretionary spending appropriations bill that directs funds to a specific recipient or area while circumventing the merit-based or competitive funds allocation process. Democratic leaders say the return of earmarks would help build public support for Congress to pass more bills, including a Covid-19 stimulus package or a massive infrastructure bill, if they know there's something that would benefit them directly.
On Jan. 6, lawmakers will convene for a joint session of the House and Senate to count Electoral College votes and declare the winner of the presidential election. The process also allows a lawmaker to object to the returns from any state as they are announced. Should a senator and a House lawmaker submit such a protest in writing, the two chambers will consider the objection. Several House Republicans have said they plan to object.
In the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said that swearing in will take place on Jan. 3.
— Northeast, Midwest would lose seats in latest census estimate. New York would lose two congressional seats according to population estimates released recently by the Census Bureau, making the state the biggest loser in the next apportionment if the official count comes out the same. Using the estimate to apportion the 435 seats in the House, seven states would gain congressional seats while nine states would lose them. California would lose a congressional seat for the first time in its history, according to the estimate. The other states losing seats: Rhode Island, New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Michigan, Illinois and Minnesota. Texas would gain three seats and Florida two. North Carolina, Colorado, Montana, Arizona and Oregon would also gain seats. Alabama would have the slimmest margin of any state, holding onto its 7th congressional seat by about 6,000 people. Apportionment under the same estimate produced last year had Alabama losing that seat.
— Georgia runoffs test Democrats in turning out Black voters. Unlike other groups in rural areas, which trend heavily toward the GOP, Black Americans tend to stick with Democrats when they vote. Link to WSJ article on the topic.
Meanwhile, President Trump on Sunday announced plans to hold a rally in Georgia to garner support for the Republican candidates the day before the state’s two Senate runoffs. Trump said that he will head to Georgia on Monday, Jan. 4, to host a rally backing Sens. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) and David Perdue (R-Ga.) before the runoffs that will determine which party controls the U.S. Senate.
OTHER ITEMS OF NOTE
— Nashville bombing suspect died in explosion, police say. Federal authorities identified Anthony Warner as the man responsible for the Christmas Day bombing in Nashville, saying that they believe the 63-year-old acted alone and died in the explosion. The explosion caused a widespread service interruption in Tennessee and other U.S. states due to extensive damage at a nearby AT&T data center. "As of now, 96% of our wireless network is restored, 60% of our business services are restored, and 86% of our consumer broadband and entertainment services are restored," AT&T Communications CEO Jeff McElfresh said late Sunday. Local officials feel there has to be some connection between the bombing and the AT&T facility, according to Nashville Mayor John Cooper, and FBI agents are investigating whether Warner, who provided computer consulting services, had paranoia that 5G technology was being used to spy on Americans.
— Cotton AWP rises further above 60 cents. The Adjusted World Price (AWP) for cotton moved up to 62.01 cents per pound, effective Dec. 25, up from 60.98 cents per pound the prior week. The past two weeks are the first that the AWP has been at 60 cents per pound or more since January 2020 and it is the highest AWP since it was at 64.65 cents per pound the week of May 10, 2019. Meanwhile, USDA announced that Special Import Quota #10 will be established Dec. 31 for 37,244 bales of upland cotton, applying to cotton purchased not later than March 30 and entered into the U.S. not later than June 28.