Major Winter Storm Lashes Upper US

A major winter storm with bitterly cold temperatures is battering the Northeastern states this morning after a weekend foray through the Plains and Midwest.  \r\n   Snow totals have been worse for other storms, but that still doesn’t mean this one isn’t dangerous or that it can’t disrupt travel, deliveries of goods or commerce.  It also can kill.  With temperatures well below zero in many areas, it is dangerous to be out, and there are likely to be deaths that are attributed to the weather.\r\n   Here is an Intellicast map showing the current placement of the storm:\r\n   What the map doesn’t show is the extremely cold temperatures experienced in the upper Plains and Midwest.  Most market analysts aren’t particularly worried about crop conditions since the snow will protect the winter wheat.  Livestock left out in this kind of cold could suffer, however.\r\n   Meanwhile, wheat’s downward correction could be losing momentum, market analysts said.  \r\n   “A rise of 0.5% to $6.09 a bushel for Chicago’s benchmark March contract may not sound (like) much, but it represents only the fourth positive finish in December, and the second within the last week, representing some hope of an improvement in a month which, as of the last session’s low, had brought a fall of 10% so far,” said\r\n   It took better-than-expected wheat export sales to put the brakes on the slide in wheat prices as traders were convinced US wheat was either priced out of the market or blocked by exports of corn and soybeans.\r\n   That’s not to say wheat is ready to rebound.  There still are large world supplies to deal with.\r\n   South American weather continues to draw huge interest among grain and soybean traders.  Conditions have improved in central and northern Argentina as well as in southern Brazil.  Temperatures remain hot, but recent rain (and forecasts for more) were expected to keep crops going, even if the combination of high humidity and high temperatures is hard on people and livestock.  \r\n   However, southern Argentina remains dry and hot.  Forecasts contain some rain, but crop stress is a recurring theme in market commentaries about the area.  This could become more of a market factor as traders return from the holidays and get a better look at world conditions.\r\n   Traders this morning may pay attention to world economic indicators as well as to fundamental news in their own commodity markets.  MARKIT released its latest round of Purchasing Mangers’ Indexes overnight and this morning, and the results are mixed, but show some general improvement.  \r\n   China’s manufacturing PMI, at 50.5 for December, was unchanged from the earlier flash PMI, but was down slightly from November’s 50.8.  A reading above 50.0 shows expansion, while a reading below this line shows contraction, so December’s PMI shows the economy is expanding but at a slightly slower rate.\r\n   December’s PMI in China also was a three-month low, yet was the fifth straight month above 50.  MARKIT said exports posted a slight decline in December, the first in four months, and staffing fell for the second month in a row, although the backlog of work rose at a modest pace.\r\n   Spain saw growth in the month.  MARKIT said its Manufacturing PMI was 50.8, up significantly from 48.6 in November, as output and new orders rebounded from a fall lull.  It was the fastest expansion rate since March 2011, MARKIT said, but employment and purchasing activity were reduced.\r\n   France’s Manufacturing PMI took it on the chin in December, MARKIT said.  The benchmark was down to 47.0 from 48.4 in November, a seven-month low, on sharper declines in output and new orders.  The rate of job losses also accelerated in December as output and new orders fell for the third straight month.  \r\n   Germany, however, made up for it with a sharp rise to 54.3 in December from 52.7 in November.  It was the highest level for Germany in 2 ½ years, and it was based on strong increases in output and incoming new work.  Employment numbers also rose for the first time since March\r\n   Greece even had a better month, with its MARKIT Manufacturing PMI almost reaching 50, being spotted at 49.6 from 49.2 in November as manufacturing output rose for the second straight month.\r\n   As a whole, the Eurozone PMI hit 52.7 in December, a 31-month high, MARKIT said.  This was up from 51.6 in November.\r\n   Grain and livestock markets reopen today, and early calls indicate expectations for lower prices, following Tuesday’s poor performance.  Continued incremental improvements in South American weather forecasts also could lend some pressure, AgResource said.\r\n   Cash cattle markets were stronger last week, with prices up $2 to $3 per cwt on a live basis at a record $133 to $135 in spite of packing plant losses and a holiday-shortened production schedule this week.  In dressed markets, cattle traded at $212 to $213, up from $207 to $208 a week earlier.\r\n   Boxed beef prices rose again Tuesday amid good demand and moderate offerings, USDA said.\r\n   The USDA reported choice boxed-beef cutout values Tuesday at $200.65 per cwt up $0.94.  Select beef was up $0.95 per cwt at $196.41.  The choice/select spread narrowed to $4.24, and there were 144 loads of fabricated product sold into the spot market.\r\n   The CME Feeder Cattle Index for the seven days ended Monday was $166.31, up $1.64.  The Jan feeder cattle futures contract settled Tuesday at $166.70, down $0.57.\r\n