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Column: Cold, rain slows grain planting

Breitinger

Cool, wet weather across much of the Midwest is plaguing farmers who are unable to plant their corn crop into soggy, cold soil.

Some weather watchers fear that unfavorable weather could continue through early May, putting some farmers far behind schedule to plant this year’s crop.

Currently, most analysts believe that only 7 percent of the U.S. corn crop has been planted so far, compared to an average of 19 percent for this time of year.

Despite the problems that farmers are experiencing, corn prices have not responded, indicating that most traders are still optimistic that a huge crop will be planted on time. As of midday Friday, December corn was trading at $5.46 per bushel.

Unusually cold weather across the Midwest has also supported natural gas prices, which continued rallying this week, climbing 20 cents (+ 4.7 percent) to $4.42 by Friday morning, the highest price in nearly two years.

Gold collapse sets 30-year record

Gold prices continued crumbling this week, melting to the lowest level in more than two years.

On Monday alone, prices fell $140 per ounce (- 9.3 percent), the largest one-day drop since 1980.

The precious metal lost its luster as news reports broke on Sunday night of a slowdown in the Chinese economy, which spurned more selling after the previous week’s Cyprus-driven selloff.

The tragedy in Boston on Monday afternoon and ensuing uncertainty were also cited by some traders as accelerating a general selloff in commodities, which put additional pressure on the gold market.

Prices fell as low as $1,321 an ounce on Tuesday. By the end of the week, gold had stabilized near $1,400 per ounce, recovering almost half its losses.

Crude oil, copper, and the S&P 500 stock index futures also began the week with a tumble, but stabilized by week’s end.

Cocoa rises on supply fears

Cocoa prices gained this week as reports from Ivory Coast indicated the upcoming harvest could be smaller than expected and slow to arrive in consuming markets in Europe and North America.

The African country produces more than a third of the world’s cocoa, making supply shortages from that country felt throughout the chocolate-loving world.

As of midday Friday, cocoa for delivery in May was trading at $2,331 per metric ton, up $70 (+ 3.1 percent) during the week.

Walt Breitinger is a commodity futures broker in Valparaiso. He can be reached at (800) 411-3888 or www.indianafutures.com. This is not a solicitation of any order to buy or sell any market.

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