Investors Calmer As Ukraine Crisis Only Simmers

4-29-14 – As the Russia/Ukraine crisis goes through another day without boiling over, world markets have a somewhat calmer feel.\r\n\r\n   President Barack Obama imposed additional economic sanctions targeting Russian President Vladimir Putin and other high-ranking Russian officials, but remains unwilling to commit troops.\r\n\r\n   Russia still says it has an obligation to protect (support) ethnic Russians in Ukraine even though they are citizens of another country.\r\n\r\n   So something of a standoff in the minds of world investors goes on, and they are able to turn to things like earnings reports in the US and economic reports out of China.\r\n\r\n   US earnings have prompted outlooks for minimal growth; the outlook for the Eurozone is improving, but China’s economy seems less bullish.  Commodity markets are consolidating first-quarter gains, leaving the outlook for many agricultural commodities mixed and highly dependent on weather.\r\n\r\n \r\n\r\nCORN PLANTING RESTRICTED\r\n\r\n \r\n\r\n   The USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service’s weekly Crop Progress and Condition report Monday showed US farmers made significant progress planting corn last week but were still behind normal.  As of Sunday, 19% of the corn was in the ground, and while this was a big step forward from the 6% reported a week ago and last year’s 5%, it still fell short of the 28% 5-year average.\r\n\r\n   Market analysts credited cool, wet weather for keeping fields soggy and below minimum germination temperatures. \r\n\r\n   The continued delays are causing debate among traders about their significance.  Some worry that a large chunk of the crop will be planted so late that it runs into summer’s worst heat and dryness when it is trying to pollinate.  They also fret that some fields currently tagged for corn will be switched to soybeans.\r\n\r\n   Others say forecasts for warming and clearing conditions next week will allow the industrious US farmer to catch up.\r\n\r\n \r\n\r\nSURVEY SAYS: CONSUMERS DESIRE BEEF\r\n\r\n \r\n\r\n   A monthly consumer survey by Oklahoma State University shows that consumer desire for beef rose in April, despite record-high prices.  Consumers showed a 4.25% increase over March in their willingness to pay for steak but a 2.57% decrease in willingness to pay more for hamburger.\r\n\r\n   Other meats also were viewed favorably.  Consumer willingness to pay more for chicken breast rose 2.4%, and pork chops were up 5.92%.\r\n\r\n   Cattle prices may not respond immediately to the survey news, but strong product demand can’t hurt.  \r\n\r\n   Live cattle futures were up Monday as expiring April’s high closed the gap with last week’s cash cattle price of $145 to mostly $146 per cwt on a live basis.  An early boost came from a bullishly construed Cattle-On-Feed report, although profit taking erased part of the gains.  Another bounce was seen in overnight trading, however.\r\n\r\n   Boxed-beef prices were mixed Monday.  The USDA reported its choice cutout value up $0.34 per cwt at $233.17 while the select cutout was off $0.07 at $221.57. \r\n\r\n   The mixed values on a Monday hint that weekend retail movement held no significant surprises and that early May beef features are adequately booked.\r\n\r\n   The CME Feeder Cattle Index for the seven days ended Friday was $178.86, down $0.24, while the May futures contract settled Monday at $181.10, up $1.10 amid supply fears following the On-Feed report.  April live cattle settled at $145.40, up $0.40.\r\n\r\n \r\n\r\nIN OUR OPINION\r\n\r\n \r\n\r\n–California cattle and dairy producers are snapping up first-cutting alfalfa faster than it can be cut.\r\n\r\n–A new report linking increased heart disease with a type of iron found in beef likely won’t result in a noticeable decrease in consumption.\r\n\r\n–Cattle futures appear to be confined to a sideways trading range and could be approaching the top of the range.