April rains boost the grains
Most corn producing states have begun planting this year's crop, but planting will not begin in earnest for another two weeks. Many Midwest farmers are concerned about wet conditions, which can slow or halt planting, which must be complete by the end of May.
Delayed corn plantings can lower yields, push harvest back, or force farmers to plant alternative crops, like soybeans. The prospects for a problematic start this year have pushed the price for this year's corn crop to new highs. Corn for December 2011 delivery reached $6.60 per bushel, potentially making this year's corn crop the second-most valuable in history.
Metals mark new records
Gold and silver exploded higher this week as the U.S. Dollar plunged to its lowest value in six months. Friday morning, gold reached $1488 and silver blasted to $42.86 per ounce. Investors continue to crave the precious metals as inflationary concerns hold the public's attention. Inflation numbers released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics on Friday morning showed that consumers were feeling inflation's pinch a bit more this month, with consumer prices rising 0.5 percent in the month of March.
Elsewhere in the world, inflation has become a headline issue, forcing other nations to battle rising prices. In Europe, inflation is at 2.7 percent, a three-year high. Brazil is experiencing a 6.3 percent rise in prices over the last year, and India is attempting to tame its raging 9 percent inflation.
If the US decides to join the group of foreign nations which have already raised interest rates, the rally in the precious metals markets may take a breather. Until then, inflationary psychology will continue to lend brilliance to silver and gold's shimmer.
Cocoa prices shot sharply higher this week, rising $267 per metric ton (+9 percent) as renewed violence broke out in the Ivory Coast. The West African nation has been divided since a contested presidential election five months ago pitted incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo against forces of Alassane Ouattara, the victorious opposition candidate. Although Mr. Gbagbo has been ousted, sporadic gunfire and reports of looting have dampened the prospect of a quick recovery in the era after the electoral conflict.
The Ivory Coast is the world's largest producer of cocoa, but the nation's exports have been on standstill since the conflict broke out last November. As of midday Friday, cocoa for May delivery was trading at $3,240 per metric ton, a historically high price for the confectionary staple.
Opinions are solely the writer's. Alex Breitinger is commodities broker with Breitinger & Sons LLC, a commodity futures brokerage firm in Valparaiso, IN. He can be reached at (800) 411-3888 or indianafutures.com. This is not a solicitation of any order to buy or sell any market.
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