CCC funding issue likely awaits FY 2021 omnibus budget details
In Today’s Updates
* Warning signal for U.S. economy
* USDA announces two daily export sales
* Investors pulled $4 billion from gold-backed exchange traded funds last week
* Pandemic Thanksgiving means far less driving
* Gulf of Mexico oil auction exceeds expectations
* Most actively traded natural-gas futures for January delivery dropped 4.2
* Coffee futures rallying after Nicaragua and Honduras were hit by Hurricane Iota
* Brazil seeing unrivaled surge in domestic demand for sugar
* German pork could remain shut from world’s top markets for at least a year
* Cass Freight Index rose 2.4% in October, first annual gain since Nov. 2018
* Lumber prices rise again, defying normal seasonal slowdown
* Big jump in Argy soybean planting after needed rains; corn planting remains stalled
*Japan’s use of corn and barley in feed up from year-ago
*Japan has had to cull more than a 1.3 million chickens due to bird flu
* Rural banking index falls below growth-neutral
* Fears about a repeat of U.S. spring processing disruptions
* No specific talks on new Covid aid package
* Another Covid-aid farmer payout murky
* Mnuchin, Fed disagree on future of emergency lending facilities
* FCMSA unveils hours-of-service ag commodity, livestock definition rule
* Investment in highways, bridges & ports may be on agenda in 2021: WSJ
* Reports on China outlook
Energy & Climate Change:
* U.S. refiners grapple with higher RFS compliance costs
* General Motors raising bet on electric cars by more than a third to $27 billion
Food & beverage industry update:
* Tyson Foods suspends Iowa plant officials amid coronavirus scandal
* Butter booming, whole milk is back, and dairy is surviving
* Smithfield settles suits over North Carolina farms, after losing appeal
* U.S. logged highest number of newly reported Covid-19 infections in a day
* Mexico fourth nation to top 100,000 Covid-19 deaths
* Pfizer to ask DA today to authorize its Covid-19 vaccine
* Trump and Biden on lockdowns
* Delta only airline of Big Three still blocking middle seats
Politics & Elections:
* Senate departs early for Thanksgiving recess
* Wasserman: House Democrats' majority keeps getting narrower
* Biden won Georgia after a recount
* Trump meeting Michigan Republicans at White House
* Two-thirds of Republicans doubt election was free and fair
* Oversight chair asks GSA head for briefing on stalled transition
* Biden: Treasury secretary choice ‘just before or just after Thanksgiving’
* Trump telling people he will run in 2024
* More than half of all counties voting for Trump lost population since
* Gun owners face tens of billions in new taxes under Biden plan
Other Items of Note:
* Iran official says attack could lead to war
* Royal Caribbean attracts 100,000 volunteers for test runs
* Trump administration plans to release rules today to lower drug prices
* White House suggests an unusual trade for repealing a key internet law
* EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler’s foreign trips before leaving office
* Proposed bill would transfer up to 32 million acres to Black farmers
Equities today: Global stock markets were mixed overnight. U.S. stock indexes are pointed toward mixed openings. In Asia, the Nikkei fell 106.97 points, 0.42%, at 25,527.37. The Hang Seng Index was up 94.57 points, 0.36%, at 26,451.54. Equities in Europe are seeing gains. The Stoxx 600 was recently up 0.6% with gains of up to 1% in regional markets.
U.S. equities yesterday: The Dow gained 44.81 points, 0.2%, to 29,483.23. The S&P 500 ticked up 14.08 points, 0.4% to 3,581.87. The Nasdaq rose 103.11 points, 0.9%, to 11,904.71.
On tap today:
• European Commission's flash consumer confidence indicator for November is out at 10 a.m. ET.
• Baker Hughes rig count is out at 1 p.m. ET.
• Federal Reserve: Richmond’s Thomas Barkin and Atlanta’s Raphael Bostic speak at a virtual event on economic mobility at 9 a.m. ET, and Kansas City’s Esther George speaks about energy and the economy at 1:30 p.m. ET.
• CFTC Commitments of Traders report, 3:30 p.m. ET.
Warning signal for U.S. economy. The labor market is flashing signs of slowdown in states where coronavirus cases are surging — and in places where they are not. The growth in the number of daily job postings in Midwestern states, where the virus is raging, is slowing sharply compared with October, according to data from the job site ZipRecruiter. But other states with among the lowest virus infection rates in the nation, including California, New York and North Carolina, are also seeing a slowdown. The Wall Street Journal reports (link) regional data suggest it is not the level of Covid-19 infections but how state officials, businesses and consumers respond to the pandemic that appears to have the greater impact on the pace of the labor market’s recovery in a state.
• Outside markets: The U.S. dollar index is slightly higher early today. The other important outside market sees January Nymex crude oil futures prices firmer and trading around $42.30 a barrel. The yield on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury note futures is currently trading at 0.84%.
• USDA daily export sales announcements:
— 158,270 metric tons of corn to Mexico during the 2020-2021 marketing year
—131,000 metric tons of corn to unknown destinations during 2020-2021
• Crude oil futures have gained ground amid optimism surrounding a COVID-19 vaccine. U.S. crude is trading around $42.10 per barrel and Brent crude around $44.70 per barrel. Crude oil prices rose in Asian action, with U.S. crude up 38 cents at $42.12 per barrel while Brent crude was up 52 cents at $44.72 per barrel.
• Investors pulled $4 billion from gold-backed exchange traded funds last week, which is the largest-ever weekly outflow, according to Bank of America.
• Pandemic Thanksgiving means far less driving. Only 35% will travel by car this year, down from 65% a year ago, according to survey from retail fuel tracker GasBuddy. The survey underscores how much consumer patterns have changed this year and is especially relevant to an oil industry that has been clobbered by an unprecedented drop in demand, according to Bloomberg.
• Gulf of Mexico oil auction exceeds expectations. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management's last Gulf of Mexico oil and natural gas lease sale under President Donald Trump pulled in almost $121 million worth of high bids on roughly 518,000 of the 79.6 million acres made available, exceeding the agency's target of $100 million. The strong results are largely attributable to oil operators' desire to secure leases before the change in administration, which could bring more regulatory hurdles, said S&P Global Platts Analytics senior energy analyst Sami Yahya.
• Most actively traded natural-gas futures for January delivery dropped 4.2% on Thursday to $2.720 a million British thermal units, bringing their tumble for the month to about 22%. Prices had surged to nearly two-year highs at the end of October on bets cold weather would support demand, but forecasts in recent days have been milder than anticipated.
• Coffee futures are rallying after Nicaragua and Honduras were hit by Hurricane Iota.
• Brazil is seeing an unrivaled surge in domestic demand for sugar, as an added appetite within the world’s largest producer is aggravating woes for a world struggling from shortfalls. Link to more from Bloomberg. Meanwhile, Hershey is taking the unusual step of directly sourcing a large amount of cocoa through the ICE Futures U.S. exchange instead of buying beans in the physical market. And, sugar beet production in France is expected to take a bigger-than-expected hit as the spread of beet yellows virus disease wreaks havoc on crops, according to the nation’s top producer.
• German pork could remain shut out of some of the world’s top markets for at least a year as the country works to contain its outbreak of a deadly pig virus, according to Europe’s biggest meat producer. Link to details via Bloomberg.
• Cass Freight Index rose 2.4% in October, the first annual gain since November 2018. Meanwhile, ocean forwarders say shipping lines are dropping contract bookings in Asia to carry more shipments under soaring spot container rates. And, the Port of Los Angeles plans to offer financial incentives to ensure truckers dropping off containers also ferry outbound boxes.
• Lumber prices rise again, defying normal seasonal slowdown. Lumber futures have risen 24% so far in November, closing Thursday at $616.90 per thousand board feet. While that’s a lot lower than the record $1,000 hit this summer during the pandemic-induced lumber binge, it is nearly 90% more than the typical price for boards delivered in January.
Items in Pro Farmer's First Thing Today include (Link to subscribe to FTT):
• Big jump in Argy soybean planting after needed rains; corn planting remains stalled
• Japan’s use of corn and barley in feed up from year-ago
• Japan has had to cull more than a 1.3 million chickens due to bird flu
• Rural banking index falls below growth-neutral
• Fears about a repeat of U.S. spring processing disruptions
— Despite reports to the contrary, there were no specific talks on a new Covid aid package. A meeting Thursday with congressional leaders was about the end-of-year government funding bill, which is due for renewal on Dec. 11. After the meeting, Democrats said “they discussed Covid relief and omnibus” separately. Republicans said no, it was a government funding talk. The two parties discussed the expiration of Covid relief-related items like pandemic unemployment assistance, student loan forbearance and the Paycheck Protection Program, but they did not talk about a new Covid relief deal. Meanwhile, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is a “big wall” standing in the way of a Covid deal.
— Another Covid-aid farmer payout murky. Congressional leaders still are not meeting regarding what many believe to be another eventual Covid aid/stimulus package. Farm-state lawmakers and the ag sector hope for additional farmer aid. Meanwhile, it may take until the end-of-year omnibus budget deal to see if USDA's Commodity Credit Corporation gets additional funding.
— Mnuchin, Fed disagree on future of emergency lending facilities. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and the Federal Reserve differed Thursday on what should happen to the emergency credit facilities established during the pandemic and a related $429 billion in unspent Treasury funds. Mnuchin said he would allow several emergency Federal Reserve lending programs to expire, opening a divide with the central bank, which had pressed for an extension. The programs have backed corporate credit and municipal-borrowing markets, and have provided loans to small and midsize businesses and nonprofits during the coronavirus pandemic,
In a letter to the Federal Reserve, Mnuchin requested that the unused money be returned to the Treasury. He called for ending most of the emergency credit facilities due to expire at the end of the year but asked the Fed to extend four of them for an additional 90 days. Mnuchin said the facilities were no longer necessary. “While portions of the economy are still severely impacted and in need of additional fiscal support, financial conditions have responded and the use of these facilities has been limited,” he wrote.
Impacts: Returning the funds would prevent Mnuchin’s successor in the Biden administration from reversing course on the emergency facilities and quickly re-establishing them. As for the market impact, Treasuries rallied on the administration’s message, sending the 10-year bond yield back toward 0.80%.
The Fed responded with a statement of opposition, saying the facilities are “a backstop for our still-strained and vulnerable economy.”
Do they need to be extended? "This is getting a lot of debate, but I'm going to make the case that whether we extend them or not may not be that material to financial markets," St. Louis Fed President James Bullard said earlier this week. "We can always start up the liquidity programs again in the future."
The emergency facilities would still end on Dec. 31 under current law, but could be restarted under the Biden administration, he said. New funds will need congressional authorization, but observers note the incoming Treasury Secretary could agree to restart the facilities with pre-CARES Act cash available in the department’s Exchange Stabilization Fund, which are estimated at just over $70 billion. Meanwhile, some observers note the Fed can reject Mnuchin’s request — then keep making loans using $195 billion in equity that the Treasury has already committed.
Mnuchin told Bloomberg late Thursday that businesses need grants — which Congress has the power to dole out — not the loans that a sunsetting Fed program issued. “With partisanship in Congress preventing the delivery of urgently needed fiscal aid, and low rates negating any imminent debt servicing concern, Mnuchin’s justification appears poorly grounded,” wrote Greg Daco of Oxford Economics in a research note.
— FCMSA unveils hours-of-service ag commodity, livestock definition rule. An interim final rule clarifying agricultural commodity and livestock definitions in hours-of-service (HOS) regulations was unveiled Thursday (Nov. 19) by the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).
The rule (link) has not yet been scheduled for publication in the Federal Register.
Background: During state-defined harvesting and planting seasons, haulers transporting agricultural commodities, including livestock, are exempt from the HOS requirements from the source of the commodities to a location within a 150-air-mile radius from the source. However, amid indications the definition of “agricultural commodities” was not well understood or enforced consistently relative to the HOS exemption, FCMSA began a rulemaking to clarify the term in July 2019. The interim final rule defines the terms “any agricultural commodity,” “livestock,” and “non-processed food” as used in the definition of agricultural commodity under HOS regulations. The interim final rule will take effect 15 days after publication in the Federal Register and comments will be accepted for 30 days following publication.
Link to U.S. Cattlemen’s Association statement on the topic.
— Investment in highways, bridges and ports may be on the table in Washington in 2021. Lawmakers are eyeing infrastructure as a possible area of bipartisan compromise under the Biden administration, the Wall Street Journal reports (link), as Democrats and Republicans face the possibility of another two years of divided government. Efforts to craft a multiyear bill repeatedly fell apart during the Trump administration, and disagreements on the scope of the legislation and how to pay for it will persist under the new president. But Congress faces a potential impetus with the expiration of the existing spending plan known as the highway bill next Sept. 30, and a new measure could become a vehicle Joe Biden’s proposed $2 trillion plan for transportation and other infrastructure. Lawmakers see the desire for economic stimulus as the country recovers from the coronavirus pandemic as potentially spurring passage of a major infrastructure bill.
— Reports on China… study up. Links to some recommended reports:
— U.S./China Phase 1 tracker: China’s purchases of U.S. goods. Link.
ENERGY & CLIMATE CHANGE
— U.S. refiners grapple with higher RFS compliance costs. With fewer renewable identification numbers available due to lower ethanol demand and production, the price for one RIN has increased from 9.5 cents in January to an average 63.96 cents so far this month, raising Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) compliance costs for U.S. refiners. RIN prices are expected to continue on this upward trajectory for the remainder of the year amid uncertainty surrounding the 2021 mandate and the upcoming change in administration, according to S&P Global Platts Analytics.
— General Motors is raising its bet on electric cars by more than a third to $27 billion over the next five years, as it wants to convince Wall Street that it too can be successful in the market. General Motors said that within five years, a pending breakthrough in battery chemistry will cut the price of its electric vehicles so they equal those powered by gasoline. The technology also will increase the range per charge to as much as 450 miles. The company promises that by 2025, a small electric SUV will cost less than $30,000 and pledged to roll out 30 battery-powered models worldwide. Nearly all current electric vehicles cost more than $30,000.
FOOD & BEVERAGE INDUSTRY
— Tyson Foods suspends Iowa plant officials amid coronavirus scandal. Tyson Foods suspended top officials at an Iowa pork processing plant without pay on Thursday amid a Covid-19 scandal that involves allegations of a cash buy-in, winner-take-all betting pool against employees. Among the claims presented in a recent wrongful death lawsuit against Tyson Foods are that the Waterloo, Iowa, plant remained open even as the coronavirus ripped through the facility in April, and that higher-ups bet on how many employees would end up getting sick.
Tyson Foods CEO Dean Banks said he was “extremely upset” over the claims, and that law firm Covington & Burling LLP will conduct an investigation into the allegations led by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, according to the Associated Press. “If these claims are confirmed, we’ll take all measures necessary to root out and remove this disturbing behavior from our company,” Banks said.
Company spokesman Gary Mickelson stated that Tysons Food would not release the names of the accused officials who were suspended. The plaintiffs’ attorney Mel Orchard responded to the news of the Tyson suspension, saying he was “happily surprised” but that “it’s not going to change what happened," the AP reports.
Details: Oscar Fernandez is suing Tysons and several high-ranking officials. He claims that his dad, Isidro, who died in April, was infected with Covid-19 and 1,000 other employees because the Waterloo facility did not take proper precautions. He claims that the high-ranking Tyson officials pressured workers to keep working no matter what and even lobbied government officials to help keep the plant open. In April, two dozen employees were admitted to the emergency room, and the plant had to shut down temporarily. Tyson is being sued for fraudulent misrepresentations, gross negligence, and wanton disregard for worker safety.
— Butter is booming, whole milk is back, and dairy is surviving. With Americans staying home more than usual because of the pandemic and doing lots of baking and cooking to pass the time, this has been a banner year for butter, according to Bloomberg Opinion’s Justin Fox. Link for more.
— Smithfield settles suits over North Carolina farms, after losing appeal. Smithfield Foods announced Thursday that it had reached a settlement with plaintiffs who had sued the company over the stench, flies, buzzards, and truck traffic coming from its industrial swine farms in North Carolina. The announcement came after the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, rejected a call from Smithfield for a retrial in a lower court case it had lost.
— Summary: Sources: Johns Hopkins University as of 6:30 a.m. ET; Hospitalization figures from the Covid Tracking Project as of yesterday.
• 57,011,978: Confirmed cases world-wide, and 1,362,424 deaths
• 187,833: New U.S. cases recorded yesterday
• 11,718,867: Total confirmed cases in the U.S.
• 2015 : Deaths in the U.S. recorded yesterday
• 252,564: Total U.S. deaths
• 80,698: Tests conducted in the U.S.
— U.S. logged its highest number of newly reported Covid-19 infections in a day and reported record hospitalizations for the 10th day in a row. Meanwhile, the CDC urged Americans not to travel for Thanksgiving and California issued a new, limited curfew.
— Mexico is now the fourth nation to top 100,000 Covid-19 deaths, following the United States, Brazil and India.
— Pfizer said it would ask the FDA today to authorize its Covid-19 vaccine, which could put it on track for distribution in December if cleared quickly.
— Trump and Biden on lockdowns: As states and major cities impose temporary new restrictions on businesses and schools because of overburdened hospitals and rampant asymptomatic spread of the virus, Vice President Mike Pence said the president fervently opposes lockdowns and wants schools to remain open. “We do not support closing schools,” he said. Joe Biden told reporters he is not advocating a nationwide lockdown of the economy and is working with state and local officials, including governors with whom he spoke during a virtual meeting on Thursday, about mandating masks to mitigate spread until hundreds of millions of Americans can be vaccinated.
— Delta, the only airline of the Big Three still blocking middle seats for social distancing, will continue to do so until March 30. United and American have not blocked middle seats on flights since July.
POLITICS & ELECTIONS
— Senate departs early for Thanksgiving recess. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) sent senators home through Thanksgiving.
— Wasserman: House Democrats' majority keeps getting narrower. Cook Political Report House editor today writes: “It's no wonder that Democratic Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.) announced his exit to join the incoming Biden administration so quickly. House Democrats' majority in the next Congress is looking so narrow that there are only a handful of vacancies Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) can afford. Richmond jumped to claim one, and it's unlikely other Democrats hoping for administration jobs will be granted escape hatches.”
As for the latest House election tally, Wasserman notes: “Democrats appear to be headed for a majority of 222 or 223 seats — a 10 or 11 seat loss. And although both the Democratic and GOP leadership teams were uneventfully renominated this week in party meetings, Pelosi can only afford defections the size of the four-member ‘Squad’ and still get reelected Speaker in January — let alone pass legislation.”
— Joe Biden won Georgia after a recount. The state’s results are expected to be certified today. The audit, launched after unofficial results showed Biden leading Republican President Donald Trump by about 14,000 out of more than 5 million votes cast, ended with Biden winning by 12,284, according to data from Raffensperger’s office.
Meanwhile, Donald Trump is meeting Michigan Republicans at the White House as he continues his battle to overturn some of the election’s results.
— Two-thirds of Republicans doubt the election was free and fair, despite the fact that election officials in every state see no evidence of widespread fraud. Link for more details in the New York Times.
— Oversight chair asks GSA head for briefing on stalled transition. House Oversight Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney and other House Democrats wrote a letter (link) to GSA Administrator Emily Murphy asking for an immediate briefing about the presidential transition. “The results of your briefing will help inform whether we bring you, your Deputy, your Chief of Staff, and your General Counsel to testify at a public hearing,” the letter said. Murphy, who was appointed by President Trump, has so far declined to “ascertain” that Biden is the apparent winner of the Nov. 3 presidential vote. Such a move would give Biden’s team access to government data, experts and officials as part of the transition process. “Your actions in blocking transition activities required under the law are having grave effects, including undermining the orderly transfer of power, impairing the incoming Administration’s ability to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, hampering its ability to address our nation’s dire economic crisis, and endangering our national security,” lawmakers wrote.
— Biden said his choice to be Treasury secretary will be announced “just before or just after Thanksgiving.” His advisers told allies in the business community that a narrowed list for Treasury includes economist and member of the Fed board of governors Lael Brainard, TIAA CEO Roger Ferguson and former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen. The New York Times notes that “Washington insiders think the former Fed chairwoman Janet Yellen is the favorite, but the current Fed governor Lael Brainard and the former Fed vice-chairman Roger Ferguson are also in the running.”
Foreign policy is a top area of focus. So far, CBS News reports (link), Tony Blinken, Biden's top campaign adviser on global issues, is the front-runner for secretary of State.
— Trump telling people he will run in 2024. President Trump, despite publicly declaring he won the Nov. 3 election, is privately telling people he plans on running again for president in 2024, the Washington Times has learned. The prospect of Trump mounting a post-loss comeback is already freezing out other Republicans with eyes on the White House, making them pick between fealty to the president and their own political aspirations. It also creates an instant complication for Republican leaders in Congress, who have to worry about crossing Trump while trying to thwart a Democratic president. Link to Washington Times article.
— More than half of all counties that voted for President Trump have lost population since 2010. Most counties that voted for Joe Biden added people — and accounted for 83% of new businesses and 73% of employment growth in the same span. "The economic chasm that generally divides red and blue strongholds is, in part, a byproduct of the fact that U.S. growth and dynamism have become increasingly concentrated in a relatively small share of places. Aggregate national economic figures tend to obscure a deeply uneven story of regional divergence, one with profound social and political implications — and one of intense bipartisan concern. Indeed, this divergence is one of the great challenges of our time," Daniel Newman and Jimmy O’Donnell write for the Economic Innovation Group (link).
— Gun owners face tens of billions in new taxes under Biden plan. American gun owners could face tens of billions of dollars in new taxes to keep the guns they already own under Democrat Joe Biden's gun ban and tax plan. At least 20 million rifles and 150 million ammunition magazines would be caught up in the sales ban and registration scheme Biden touted on the campaign trail, according to a National Shooting Sports Foundation report. The new taxes would cost Americans more than $34 billion.
— The dirty little secret pollsters need to own up to. Polls don't work anymore. Here's why, according to David Hill, director of Hill Research Consultants. Link
OTHER ITEMS OF NOTE
— Iran official says attack could lead to war. An adviser to Iran’s supreme leader who is a possible 2021 presidential candidate is warning that any American attack on the Islamic Republic could set off a “full-fledged war” in the Mideast in the waning days of the Trump administration. Hossein Dehghan struck a hard-line tone familiar to those in Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, a force he long served in before becoming a defense minister under President Hassan Rouhani. Source: Associated Press
— Royal Caribbean attracts 100,000 volunteers for test runs. The president of cruise giant Royal Caribbean announced Sunday that 100,000 people have already volunteered to sail free-of-charge on their government-mandated test voyages. “And just like that…100,000 people have volunteered. We can’t wait to start this next phase with you all!” Michael Bayley wrote on Facebook.
— Trump administration plans to release rules today meant to lower drug prices. One curbs rebates paid to middlemen in Medicare, while the other pegs the U.S. price of some drugs to their prices in other developed countries. Both are expected to be final, meaning they have completed the required public-comment period and can take effect immediately.
— White House suggests an unusual trade for repealing a key internet law. The Trump administration might be willing to drop its opposition to stripping Confederate leaders’ names from military bases if Democrats were willing to repeal Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which shields online platforms from liability for user content.
— EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler is squeezing in two taxpayer-funded foreign trips before leaving office. Wheeler is planning to charter a flight to Taiwan at a cost of $250,000 in December before a scheduled trip to four Latin American countries the following month. “Both trips have raised concerns about the taxpayer expense at a time when Wheeler no longer represents the direction of EPA policy, and he and top aides are supposed to be aiding the transition to the Biden administration,” the New York Times reports (link).
— Proposed bill would transfer up to 32 million acres to Black farmers. Black-owned farmland could expand sevenfold under a bill filed by three Democratic senators on Thursday to reverse decades of alleged discriminatory practices by USDA. The Justice for Black Farmers Act would enable Black farmers to acquire up to 160 acres apiece at no charge through a USDA system of land grants.