Overnight Markets Jumpy As Ukraine Heats Up

4-17-14 – The situation in Ukraine has overnight markets jumpy again.  Wheat, corn and soybeans are higher, apparently led by wheat, as three pro-Russian separatists were killed as they attacked a military base.\r\n\r\n   And Russian President Vladimir Putin said today that the upper chamber of the Russian Parliament had authorized the use of military force if necessary in eastern Ukraine.  The New York Times also says Putin is stressing Russia’s historical claim to the area.\r\n\r\n   That makes grain traders nervous because more fighting could interrupt grain export markets either by blocking the path to export markets directly or by hampering planting and farming progress through the growing season.  Wheat is the more immediate worry since it is nearer to harvest.\r\n\r\n   And Ukraine just won its first Egypt wheat tender in three months.  The order also included Russian wheat although most was to be from Romania.  Some took this as a sign of increasing confidence in Ukraine’s ability to deliver, while others saw it as a strain on, and a test of, the country’s markets.\r\n\r\n \r\n\r\nWEATHER FEARS FADE WITH LATEST FORECASTS\r\n\r\n \r\n\r\n   Weather fears may fade a bit in coming days as rain is forecast for the western Midwest this weekend.  Last week’s National Weather Service Drought Monitor still had the western Midwest and eastern Plains states listed as abnormally dry, so rain would help cropping prospects.\r\n\r\n   It’s the southern Plains, where the Drought Monitor shows areas of extreme to exceptional drought, that are the most worrisome to traders.  Rain is in the extended forecasts, but it’s a couple of weeks out, and a lot can change by then.\r\n\r\n   Snow, possibly heavy in spots, is expected to sweep across the northern states today and some could dip into the northern Midwest to keep fieldwork at bay through April. \r\n\r\n   But once the next round of rain passes through the western Midwest, warmer temperatures and clearing skies are expected to follow as this three-day NWS forecast map shows.  http://www.hpc.ncep.noaa.gov/noaa/noaad3.gif\r\n\r\n   Traders remain jittery about planting delays, however, and may lean on the slightly more favorable weather forecasts for guidance in today’s grain markets.  US farmers may make substantial planting progress over the weekend.\r\n\r\n   Farmer selling to finance seed and fertilizer expenses also may weigh on basis levels and futures going into a long holiday weekend.\r\n\r\n   The markets are to be closed Friday for the Easter weekend observances.\r\n\r\n \r\n\r\nCASH TRADING WEDNESDAY PRESSURES CATTLE\r\n\r\n \r\n\r\n   Beef prices were up on Wednesday amid moderate to fairly good demand, sparking optimism among cattle traders for steady to higher cash prices.  Retailers are gearing up for May features as temperatures warm seasonally and back yard grills are being dusted off.\r\n\r\n   However, light cash cattle trading in Texas late Wednesday at $146 per cwt on a live basis, $1 below last week, likely is adding pressure to April futures prices in overnight trading.  Calls for cash prices this week were mixed, so the weakness in Texas may weigh on the markets today as bullish futures traders give up and cash traders try to wrap up business before the Friday recess in futures markets.\r\n\r\n   The USDA reported its choice beef cutout value Wednesday at $223.75 per cwt, up $0.89, and select at $214.47, up $1.33.  The choice/select spread narrowed to $9.29, and there were 157 fabricated loads sold into the spot market.\r\n\r\n   Slaughter through Wednesday was estimated at 348,000 head, down 2,000 from last week, and well behind the 363,000 head of last year.\r\n\r\n   The CME Feeder Cattle Index for the seven days ended Tuesday was $179.63, down $0.12, while the April futures contract settled Wednesday at $179.25, up $0.02.\r\n\r\n \r\n\r\nIN OUR OPINION\r\n\r\n \r\n\r\n–Retail grocers are hoping for some pent-up grilling demand to show up in May with seasonally warmer temperatures.\r\n\r\n–Even if beef markets recover on seasonal demand, the effect on cattle markets will be delayed amid rising fed cattle supplies and packer margins that remain in the red.\r\n\r\n–Funds could turn bullish on corn if May dips to $5.02, the 50% retracement from a 52-week high.