US, Russia Exchange Sanctions

The US and Russia exchanged sanctions Thursday in their argument over who should control Crimea.  The US aimed its latest round of sanctions at Russian President Vladimir Putin and his inner circle, while Moscow returned fire with sanctions against US lawmakers and White House officials.\r\n   None of those moves are likely to affect grain trading directly, but there is fear that Russia could constrict trade routes near and through Russian territory.  And world financial dealings are being rearranged as western sanctions hit leaders of businesses and banks.\r\n   The European Union met Thursday to consider new sanctions, and there are reports that more people will have travel and asset restrictions.  But European officials feel they must tread lightly because of Russia’s proximity and the extent of trade between the two.\r\n   With escalating sanctions, agricultural markets may begin reapplying risk premium to grain and energy prices.\r\n\r\nSOYBEANS LEAD GRAINS LOWER\r\n\r\n   But risk premium does not seem to be on the minds of overnight traders.  Prices are mixed as soybeans undermine buying interest amid fears of more Chinese cancellations of Brazilian orders.  \r\n   Estimates vary, but some speculate that as many as 20 cargoes of Brazilian beans are at risk of cancellation.\r\n   Market analysts also report that the People’s Bank of China is becoming concerned about some of the loans they regulate, and there are suggestions that the government reduce its stocks of grains and soyoil.  Such talk has put further pressure on crush margins as selling soyoil out of reserve likely will depress product prices.\r\n\r\nNOAA SEES SLOW PLANTING START\r\n\r\n   The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Thursday warned of a slow transition from winter to spring, which could delay planting.  The agency said the heavy snow and ice buildup over winter and cooler-than-normal temperatures could mean a delayed thaw.\r\n   Besides keeping soils cold, spring flooding could hit many US rivers and streams well into April, NOAA said.  The highest threat to flooding is in the southern Great Lakes region because of above-average snowpack and deeply frozen ground.\r\n   Barge transport also could be affected as ice and ice jams occurred further south than usual, flooding homes, businesses and fields and halting river commerce.\r\n\r\nMONEY FLOWS OUT OF CATTLE\r\n\r\n   Money continues to flow out of live cattle futures in overnight trading after Thursday’s sharp drop from a test of the March 5 top.  In both cases, new contract highs were set and the market pulled back sharply, implying speculator reluctance to go much higher.\r\n   Yet cash market pricing remains strong, with cattle trading in the Plains Thursday at mostly $150 per cwt on a live basis, steady with the middle of last week’s range, and above Thursday’s settlement of $144.42.\r\n   Weekly slaughter remains above week-ago rates at 462,000 head versus 446,000 last week and 480,000 last year.\r\n   The USDA reported choice boxed-beef Thursday at $241.57 per cwt, down $1.80 and select at $234.77, off $1.53.  The choice/select spread narrowed to $6.80, and the number of fabricated loads sold into the spot market was 183.\r\n   The CME Feeder Cattle Index for the seven days ended Wednesday was $174.02, up $0.47 while the March futures contract closed Thursday at $173.62, down $0.77.\r\n\r\nOVER THE FENCE\r\n\r\n–February placements expected higher on positive margins\r\n–Plains placements also swollen by California cattle\r\n–Bottlenecked railroads hamper ethanol, grain transport\r\n–Cattle feeders concerned beef is losing nearby momentum\r\n–Wheat pressured by Japan Ag Minister dropping feed import expectations as farmers go to cheaper corn\r\n