Weather Market Bulls Sprout Horns on Weather/Planting Concerns, Rumored China Buys

Posted on 03/22/2019 6:45 AM

MillerCoors files lawsuit against Anheuser-Busch InBev

It took a while, but commodity market bulls are surfacing. A combo of melting snow and heavy rain from the "Bomb Cyclone" in the Midwest has caused historic flooding from the Platte and Missouri rivers. Three-quarters of Nebraska’s counties are under states of emergency as well as other areas of Iowa, Wisconsin and Mississippi. Missouri farmers have also been hit by floodwaters. Nearly two-thirds of the lower 48 states will have an elevated risk of flooding until May, federal scientists predict — roughly 13 million people could be exposed to major flooding, making this a "potentially unprecedented" flood season. The Midwest has already confronted record-breaking late-winter floods. Add conjecture that China is nearing buys of U.S. corn and other commodities (Update: USDA announced a daily sale of 300,000 tonnes of U.S. corn to China this morning), plus recent Chinese purchases of U.S. pork, and the start of what could be a full-fledged bull market for some commodities is at least being talked about. Some note it is way too early to pencil in major planting changes, with history showing farmers can plant a lot of corn in just a few days. But for now, the weather has pushed the former number-one topic, U.S./China trade talks, off the top spot. That in itself is news.
     For the second consecutive day, lean hog futures settled at their limit higher Thursday, meaning expanded limits of $4.50 will remain in effect today. Lean hog futures rallied on expectations that imports by China would surge as the country’s domestic hog herd is ravaged by African swine fever. All hog contracts posted new contract highs and spot futures reached their highest level in more than eight months.
     President Trump said a trade deal with China is "getting very close" and said there currently is no snag in the negotiations, despite conjecture to the contrary.
     MillerCoors has filed a lawsuit against Anheuser-Busch InBev, alleging Bud's ad campaign associating Miller Lite and Coors Light with corn syrup is false and misleading. MillerCoors says the ads "deceive beer consumers into believing that there is corn syrup and high-fructose corn syrup in Miller Lite and Coors Light," adding that there is no corn syrup in either beer by the time it reaches consumers and high-fructose corn syrup is never involved at any point.
     This just in (again)... Rumors are rampant that the special counsel probe into Russia’s election interference has ended and Robert Mueller is preparing to hand over a final report of his team’s findings to Attorney General William Barr, potentially as soon as today. And it's not even April Fool's Day.


NOAA warns of "unprecedented flood season" across U.S. The U.S. is likely to see "historic, widespread flooding" through May, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association's (NOAA) spring outlook. "The extensive flooding we've seen in the past two weeks will continue through May and become more dire and may be exacerbated in the coming weeks as the water flows downstream. This is shaping up to be a potentially unprecedented flood season, with more than 200 million people at risk for flooding in their communities," writes Ed Clark, the director of NOAA's National Water Center.

Several states in the Midwest have already seen record-breaking flooding due to rapid snow melts and heavy spring rains. And with more rain and snowmelt on the way as the seasons turn, NOAA warns that "the flood threat will become worse and geographically more widespread."

Major rivers, like the Missouri and Platte, are hitting levels that are historically unprecedented, and the old records are being exceeded by several feet.

The winter of 2018-19 was the wettest ever for the U.S., according to an update from USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). "Record-setting snow fell in the West and upper Midwest, culminating in the second-wettest February on record," the agency said. "Meanwhile, steady rainstorms crossed the Midwest with 19 states having a top 10 wettest February and Tennessee having the wettest February on record. The heavy rain from the recent Bomb Cyclone, coupled with melting snow, caused massive flooding across the region. Rapidly rising floodwaters have inundated towns and agricultural lands, leading to widespread evacuations and limited access to many disaster areas."

For perspective, the agency said the National Weather Service has forecast that the spring flooding could be worse than the historic floods of 1993 and 2011.

Reuters reports that some 13% of U.S. ethanol production capacity has been idled by flooding in the Midwest. Transportation impacts have also affected the ability of plants to move ethanol toward markets and is impacting the ability of farmers to deliver corn to plants to make the fuel.

President Trump on Thursday approved a federal disaster declaration for Nebraska, unlocking emergency resources to help the state recover from massive flooding that’s caused more than $1.3 billion in damage to agriculture and infrastructure. Iowa is expected to soon submit its own request for a federal disaster declaration. Nebraska Agriculture Director Steve Wellman told reporters Thursday that livestock producers' top concerns include replacing ruined feed and washed out fences. Wellman said many crop producers will be forced to delay or cancel this year’s planting after floodwaters inundated their fields, resulting in at least $440 million in crop losses in Nebraska.

The Senate wants to vote next week on a $14.2 billion disaster aid spending package, HR 268, that the House passed in January. USDA Sec. Sonny Perdue said he expects flood relief for farm belt states could be included in the final legislation.

Meanwhile, the House Ways and Means Committee is slated to mark up a broad tax bill in April that could potentially include some form of disaster relief for taxpayers affected by hurricanes and wildfires in 2018 (and extend some lapsed tax incentives like biodiesel). Tax assistance for victims of recent catastrophic weather, like the Midwest flooding and tornadoes in Alabama, could also be in the mix.

Link to resources available to impacted farmers and ranchers in Nebraska and Iowa.

Flood map

U.S./China trade policy update:

  • President Trump said that a trade deal with China is "getting very close" and said there currently is no snag in the negotiations. U.S. Trade Representative Bob Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin will travel to Beijing for meetings at the end of next week, and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He is expected in Washington in April. The current goal is to reach an accord after Liu’s trip, with a goal of a final accord by the end of April. Details of a tariff rollback are the subject of ongoing negotiations, as are questions about enforcement, technology transfer, cross-border data flows and other issues.
  • Tariff lifting. National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow commented on President Trump saying he would keep tariffs in place on China to make sure Beijing “lives by the deal.” Kudlow confirmed that tougher stance, saying tariffs would stay in place as part of the enforcement process, but he signaled it may not be as stringent as some hard-liners might like. “Some will come down, but it is doubtful as the president said today that we will remove all the tariffs all at once. We want to see how they do,” Kudlow said Thursday on Fox News' Lou Dobbs Tonight.
  • China responds. Gao Feng, spokesperson for the Chinese Ministry of Commerce, was asked about President Trump's comments Wednesday that the U.S. would leave tariffs on Chinese products in place even if the two sides reach an agreement. In stark contrast, Chinese officials have stressed that all tariffs must be lifted. Gao said that the two sides have continued to talk over the phone in recent days but that no information on the specifics of the talks could be disclosed. During a press briefing on March 9, Vice Commerce Minister Wang Shouwen, who is part of the Chinese team in the talks, said that the two sides were working on a deal that would lift "all tariffs." Geng Shuang, a spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said China hopes that the two sides could reach a mutually beneficial deal based on mutual respect. "In fact, the talks have achieved substantial progress," he said.

China urges local governments to provide subsidies to hog producers re: ASF. Chinese provincial ag departments are being called on by the Chinese agriculture ministry to provide temporary subsidies to hog breeding farms "as soon as possible" so they can resume production as pork prices have risen in the country in the wake of African swine fever (ASF).

The central government called on local authorities to provide timely compensation to farms, help them improve infrastructure and bolster their biosecurity measures. The government also wants those authorities to provide more support for farmers seeking to expand their operations and banks are being warned not to suspend or limit loans to the hog industry.

Trump said in a Fox Business Network interview yesterday that he can work with Democrats on infrastructure, and that he spoke with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) the other day and they “agree on it... We even like the type of infrastructure we’re talking about. Maybe in a certain way more Democrat from my standpoint than the Republican concept,” Trump said in an in interview to air on Mornings with Maria. Link for details.

EPA publishes E15/RIN reform rule. The proposed rule from EPA relative to making sales of E15 fuel (15 percent ethanol/85 percent gasoline) year-round and reforming the Renewable Identification Number (RIN) system was published Thursday (March 21) in the Federal Register. Link to access the final version of the proposed rule.

As with the pre-publication notice from EPA released recently, the notice says that comments are due on the proposals by April 29, adding that the comments relative to information collection provisions are "best assured of consideration" if received by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) on or before April 22.

The objectives of the actions proposed are "twofold," EPA said. "This rulemaking will take steps intended to create parity in the way the RVP [Reid Vapor Pressure] of both E10 and E15 fuels is treated under EPA regulations. Second, this action proposes reforms to RIN regulations intended to increase transparency and deter potential manipulative and other anti-competitive behaviors in the RIN market."

U.S./EU trade talks update. European Union Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström indicated she may receive approval in April from the bloc’s governments for negotiations with the U.S. on cutting industrial tariffs. Malmström is rushing to begin the market-opening deliberations with the U.S. to show President Trump progress by the EU in enacting a July 2018 political accord that he reached with her boss, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. The deal suspended the threat of U.S. levies on EU cars and auto parts that would be based on the same national-security grounds used by Trump to apply controversial duties last year on foreign steel and aluminum.

Other items of note:

  • President Donald Trump said it is time America recognize Israeli authority in the Golan Heights, territory which Israel seized from Syria in 1967. The announcement drew quick praise from Binyamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, and criticism from Arab leaders. The development would upend decades of American foreign policy.

  • Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe may travel to the U.S. in April to meet with Trump, Reuters reports. The meeting was requested by the Japanese side and arrangements were being made for the end of April, the Asahi Shimbun daily said, without giving a specific date. Link for details.

  • MillerCoors filed a lawsuit against Anheuser-Busch regarding their ad campaign focused on corn syrup. The lawsuit alleges that Anheuser-Busch’s ads regarding the use of corn syrup are misleading. Anheuser-Busch’s ad campaign included a Super Bowl commercial and billboards that said Bud Light has "100 percent less corn syrup than Coors Light.” In the lawsuit, MillerCoors claims corn syrup is no longer in Coors Lite and Miller Lite beer after the brewing process. The lawsuit accuses Anheuser-Busch of false advertising and federal trademark dilution. The lawsuit demands a jury trial.

  • Free speech on campus. President Trump signed an executive order that links some higher education funds to how colleges enforce speech rights, a move endorsed by conservatives who say their voices have been silenced.

  • Cotton AWP hits highest mark since December. The Adjusted World Price (AWP) for cotton rose to 65.83 cents per pound, effective today (March 22), the highest level since it was at 68.35 cents per pound in December before the U.S. government shut down. Meanwhile, Special Import Quota #22 for Upland Cotton will be established March 28 for the importation of 58,171 bales of upland cotton for cotton purchased not later than June 25 and entered into the U.S. not later than Sept. 23.

  • Hearing on relocating ERS, NIFA. House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee has scheduled a hearing for next Wednesday on the plan to relocate USDA's Economic Research Service (ERS) and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).

Markets. The Dow on Thursday rose 216.84 points, 0.84%, at 25,962.51. The Nasdaq gained 109.99 points, 1.42%, at 7,838.96. The S&P 500 moved up 30.65 points, 1.09%, at 2,854.88.

Leading Economic Indicators up more than expected, but trend suggests economy’s expansion could slow. The Conference Board Thursday said that its index of leading economic indicators (LEI) rose 0.2 percent in February to come in at 111.5. Economists had expected a increase of 0.1 percent. In a statement accompanying the release, Conference Board economist Ataman Ozyildirim said, “The U.S. LEI increased in February for the first time in five months. February’s improvement was driven by accommodative financial conditions and a rebound in stock prices, which more than offset weaknesses in the labor market components. Despite the latest results, the U.S. LEI’s growth rate has slowed over the past six months, suggesting that while the economy will continue to expand in the near-term, its pace of growth could decelerate by year end.”

European Union officials agreed on Thursday to extend the deadline for Britain’s withdrawal from the bloc until May 22, as long as Prime Minister Theresa May can persuade Parliament to accept her plan for doing so next week. If she can’t, the deadline would be moved up to April 12. European Union officials said they remained open to a longer delay but that it would require Britain to participate in European Parliament elections — something that May has said would be an absurdity.

The manufacturing sector in Europe’s largest economy sunk even further into contraction in March, with IHS Markit’s purchasing manager’s index for the sector falling to 44.7 for the month, the lowest level since 2012 and well below economist’s expectations for a reading of 48. The reading was enough to drag composite PMI for the entire euro region lower — it also came in below expectations at 51.3 for the month.

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