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Column: Pork market sizzles as virus spreads


Some “little piggies” might not make it to market as a devastating virus continues to spread among hog herds. Known as PEDV, the disease is killing baby pigs in at least 17 states nationwide.

The virus is not harmful to humans, nor is it transmissible through pork, but the disease-related deaths could cut significantly into next spring’s pork production, with some states projecting losses near 2 percent.

Hog prices have been climbing during the last two weeks, gaining more than four cents per pound. Prices for near-term December hogs sat Friday at 90 cents per pound, while prices for hogs next June were as high as 99.5 cents, partially driven higher by concerns about limited supplies in the future.

Cotton prices collapse

This year’s cotton harvest is expected to be the smallest in four years, and the harvest pace is behind schedule, two supply threats that normally would have traders fluffing prices up.

Instead, cotton futures fell to 10-month lows this week. Prices have been dropping because of weak foreign demand for cotton. Since the 1800s, the United States has been a major seller of cotton to the world, currently exporting three-quarters of its cotton crop, making it extremely dependent on foreign markets.

Globally, demand from the world’s largest consumer, China, has been weak, as that country reportedly has a full year’s worth of cotton stockpiled already, while India, the world’s second-largest cotton grower, is likely to boost the size of its cotton crop this year.

By Friday, cotton was trading at 79 cents per pound.

Gasoline futures reach 16-month low

Gasoline futures continued to decline this week, reaching the lowest point in 16 months.

Prices typically decline as winter approaches because people drive less, reducing demand for the fuel. Since late August, prices dropped nearly 40 cents per gallon, a decline of more than 10 percent.

A quiet Atlantic hurricane season, rising domestic crude oil inventories and continued signs of stability in the Mideast have pulled prices for petroleum downward, which helped to depress gas prices for drivers as well.

By Friday, gasoline futures, which represent the price for the fuel without taxes or other fees, were trading at $2.57 per gallon.

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