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Column: Coffee prices head higher

Coffee prices have climbed for seven consecutive days, rising nearly 16 cents per pound (+ 12 percent).

Much of the rally has been driven by weather in Brazil, the source of one-third of the world’s coffee. The approaching Southern Hemisphere winter dropped temperatures into the 30s in Brazil’s largest coffee-growing region.

Though rare, freezing temperatures can damage coffee trees, reducing production. The threat of cold weather and ongoing concerns about a leaf fungus prevalent in Central American coffee growing regions had the market jittery enough to push prices to a two-month high.

Some coffee traders are waiting to see whether the market can perk up to more than $1.50 per pound, which may prompt another rush of buying. As of midday Friday, coffee for delivery in July was trading at $1.46 per pound.

Corn goes lower

Weather across the Corn Belt began to break this week, allowing farmers to start planting corn in earnest, catching up significantly. Some analysts are projecting that as much as a quarter of this year’s corn crop was planted during the last week.

Although still behind pace, the fast planting increased the chances that US farmers will plant a record corn crop this year.

In addition to the optimistic weather outlook, corn prices were pulled lower by a USDA report released Friday morning. That report showed increases in corn production from Brazil & Argentina, two major suppliers who compete with American farmers for export business.

Following the report, July corn prices fell as low as $6.25 per bushel, the lowest price in two weeks.

Yen plunges to new low

The Japanese yen is trading at less than 1 US cent for the first time in more than three years.

The Japanese currency has been in a near free-fall in recent months because of the actions taken by the Bank of Japan to stimulate the Japanese economy, which has been stagnant for nearly two decades.

During the last year, the yen has dropped 24 percent in value against the US dollar, making Japanese goods such as cars and electronics cheaper for US consumers, which has been bolstering profits for Japanese companies. Conversely, prices for imported goods in Japan such as gasoline and food have been rising, prompting some concern about inflation in that country.

As of midday Friday, the yen was trading at only 0.984 cents, the lowest value since October 2008.

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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