Traders Cautious Ahead Of Reports, Speeches

Commodity and equity traders are cautious this morning ahead of a variety of reports and speeches that could give each market some added direction into the end of the month.\r\n   Many also are transfixed by the Polar Vortex that is bringing dangerous cold to much of the US.  The Polar Vortex, described as basically a polar hurricane by NBC News’ Al Roker, descended from its normal residence at the North Pole and late last week and currently has 26 states under wind-chill warnings or watches.\r\n   The cold isn’t expected to linger for long, but it has brought freezing temperatures to southern states, and populous areas are hunkered down waiting for it to pass.  Temperatures in some places like Fargo, N.D., have reached minus 32 degrees – without wind chill.  Add the wind chill, and it can feel like minus 50 to 60 degrees, NBC News said.\r\n   Livestock and poultry are feeling the effects, but the full extent of any damage brought by the cold may not be known for a while.  Younger cattle caught in the cold may be vulnerable, as well as cattle caught in the extreme cold for a long period of time.\r\n   Most hogs are grown inside now, but temperatures inside may fall to levels that cause more respiratory illness and death.  Farmers are reluctant to open their buildings and let the cold air in and to transport butcher hogs to slaughter as the wind chill through the sides of the truck can freeze exposed flesh.\r\n   Chicken production also takes place indoors, but there’s a reason much of it is done in southern states.  Many birds may be vulnerable to pneumonia since buildings are not heated.  \r\n   The US Dollar was slightly higher against the Yen in Asia overnight as earlier declines allowed investors and importers to scoop up the cheaper Greenbacks, said Dow Jones Newswires in its North American Morning Briefing.\r\n   If Asian importers are buying US Dollars on dips, US exports may still be in vogue.\r\n   But US Dollar trading was stuck in a tight range as traders remained somewhat cautious.  The caution came as recent optimism that pushed the US Dollar to a multi-year high recently has receded following Monday’s weaker Chinese and US indicators, Dow Jones said.\r\n   Reuters reported that Asian shares fell to a four-month low, which usually is a signal for safety-seeking investors to buy the Yen.  The Euro also remains weak against the US Dollar as bank efforts to repatriate assets before the year end have faded.\r\n   This week, investors are watching for clues to how quickly the US Federal Reserve will proceed with tapering its bond-buying program.  To do that, they will be looking at the minutes of the last Federal Open Market Committee meeting, which are to be released Wednesday.  They also will be parsing speeches by Federal Reserve presidents this week to divine their feelings on the matter.  \r\n   Traders also will be looking at the US jobs report on Friday for indications of economic health.\r\n   Commodity traders are all atwitter about Friday’s USDA crop reports as they show final production totals for the 2013 corn and soybean crops.  They also show wheat seedings.  Most market analysts expect to see gains in corn production, probably to a new record.  Many also expect the total soybean crop to be slightly larger than previous estimates, but there are those who think it could decline a pinch.\r\n   Added to the uncertainty is the conviction among many that Index Funds will begin reconfiguring their portfolios starting Wednesday.  Most feel corn will be on the wish list after dropping sharply in value last year.  And this comes right before what is expected to be a bearish USDA report.\r\n   Wholesale beef prices were higher Monday as two holiday-shortened production weeks limited product availability.  End cuts for roasts were the most popular, according to the USDA.\r\n   The USDA reported its choice beef cutout value at $205.54 per cwt up $1.21 on the day.  The select cutout value was pegged at $201.38, up $2.28.  The choice/select spread narrowed to $4.16, and there were 111 loads of fabricated product sold into the spot market.\r\n   The CME Feeder Cattle Index for the seven days ended Friday was $170.54, up $1.07.  The Jan feeder cattle futures contract settled Monday at $168.02, up $0.40.\r\n