Trade expectations for Tuesday's important crop production report from the USDA due 13.30BST:
Avg Range USDA Jul USDA '07
Corn 11.986 11.10-12.43 11.715 13.074
Soybeans 3.001 2.900-3.100 3.00 2.585
All wheat 2.459 2.422-2.537 2.461 2.067
All winter wheat 1.873 1.846-1.930 1.864 1.516
Spring wheat 0.510 0.485-0.570 0.507 0.479
Durum 0.084 0.070-0.090 0.090 0.072
Monday: Crop ratings. Corn crop ratings stabilized last week and could head downward in the data for the week ended Aug. 10. Spring wheat ratings also declined last week so markets will watch to see if further deterioration has taken place.
Tuesday: the August Crop Production Report. USDA stepped up their sampling for the report which will have the first survey-based estimates of the U.S. corn, soybean and other spring-planted crops. Private estimates came out over the course of the past week as traders geared up for the data.
Tuesday: Trade data update. In the midst of the August Crop Production Report, USDA will also provide another update of the U.S. ag trade situation. A strong export surplus should continue in the monthly update. Plus, details on specific commodities will also be important.
Wednesday: Oil stocks data. The EIA release their weekly US stocks data for crude oil, gasoline & distillates. Crude oil inventories were higher than expected last week causing crude to crash immediately after the figures were released.
Thursday: Weekly Export Sales. The rise in the U.S. dollar does make U.S. grains less competitive on the world market, but sales tallies have not yet tailed off. In fact, in some cases, a rise in the dollar could spur some extra business as countries who have waited to buy push the button.
The grains complex took another bruising this week as U.S. cash grain prices tumbled to their lowest level in many months, as average elevator bids for spot supplies plunged 2%-5% for wheat, some 6% for corn and about 13% for soybeans this week.
August Chicago Board of Trade soybean futures closed $1.58 3/4 lower on the week
Near ideal growing conditions, falling crude oil prices and reduced Chinese demand dragged the market lower.
Sep CBOT corn futures lost 66 1/2 cents during the week, ending below $5 a bushel.
September Chicago wheat settled 28 3/4 cents lower on the week as heavy selling in corn and soybeans spilled over into wheat pits. Large supplies of new crop wheat the world over continues to weigh on wheat.
November Paris-based milling wheat closed the week EUR4 lower. Weakness in the euro and fears of quality losses due to recent rains helped to halt milling wheat's decline.
November London feed wheat closed £5.50 lower on the week. Harvesting in the U.K. remains fairly slow due to cooler temperatures following recent rains. This will likely see more of the UK crop destined for feed usage and missing out on making milling quality.
Competition from lower-quality wheat out of Ukraine continues to put pressure on the U.K. feed wheat market.
According to Gleadell's website UK ex farm feed wheat values are now down to £106-110 at harvest, rising to £115-119 for November and £122-126 for May. Spot barley values are now just £104-106 they say.
The November Paris rapeseed future closed the week EUR28.50 lower. The rapeseed harvest is now pretty much completed in large parts of Europe and overall final yields have been good.
Ukraine has had a good harvest and will be an aggressive exporter in 2008, with promising crops also reported in France, Germany, Poland and Hungary.
The UK crop is estimated to be around 60-70% done, with yields and quality variable.
Falling crude oil prices have added to rapeseed's woes during the week.
November corn lost EUR13 on the week on pressure from the outlook for more of Europe's wheat crop to be feed grade than originally expected.
The IGC said world corn production in 2008/09 was now projected at 759 million tonnes, up 3 million tonnes from it's previous forecast of 756 million.
Crude-oil futures suffered a loss of 8% for the week to close at a three-month low Friday, as a surging dollar and concerns about growth in Europe prompted traders to pull their investments away from the commodities sector.
Crude for September delivery dropped $4.82 to close at $115.20 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, after earlier hitting a low of $115.10, a level not seen since early May. The contract finished the week with a loss of $9.90.
In the first month of new 2008/09 MY, Ukraine exported 599,900 tonnes of wheat, up 24% as compared to the previous month and up 6 times as compared to July, 2007, reported IA APK-Inform, referring to customs data.
In the reporting month, Spain, Tunisia and Israel were the main buyers of Ukrainian wheat. The total export share of these countries was 57%. Also Jordan, Pakistan and Turkey bought large quantities they said.
The Hungarian wheat harvest is almost complete at 5.36 million metric tons according to the state news agency MTI. That's well above last year's 4 million-ton crop.
The ministry said the entire autumn barley crop was 842,000 tons, and the spring barley crop 471,000 tons. Last year, the autumn barley crop was 187,170 tons and the spring barley crop 142,090 tons.
According to the International Grains Council (IGC), world wheat production prospects have improved during the last month and a record crop of 662 million tonnes is now forecast for 2008/09.
The projection is 4 million tonnes up from an estimate issued last month and 54 million or nearly 9 percent up from last year when drought devastated crops in several regions, the IGC said in a monthly report.
"The outlook improved in the EU, Russia, Ukraine, the U.S., Brazil, India and Australia but worsened in Argentina and in Near East Asia," the report said. World maize production in 2008/09 was projected at 759 million tonnes, up from a previous forecast of 756 million but still well below the prior season's 785 million.
"Rains benefitted (wheat) crops in key producing areas but delayed harvesting and put quality at risk in parts of the EU, Ukraine and the U.S.," the IGC said.
Rapeseeds purchasing prices decreased on Ukrainian export market. To date in Ukrainian ports traders buy rapeseeds at prices 2500-2700 UAH/t (532-574 USD/t), down 150 UAH/t (32 USD/t) as compared to the beginning of the week. Export prices on FOB terms totals 580-600 USD/t.
According to traders, rapeseeds prices decreased due to rise of offers for the product. At the same time, market participants think that prices will continue to fall in this market segment.
OK, this report was translated from Russian hence the less than perfect diction. But the gist is Ukraine (which has a rapeseed harvest approaching 3mmt this year and is looking to export most of it) is sharpening the export pencil - Nogger.
(IHT) -- LEEDS, England: Down the road from the train station here is a gaping hole. At the height of the property boom, a developer started to build what was to become one of the tallest and most stylish apartment blocks, designed by Philippe Starck.
But construction stopped abruptly last month when financing dried up because of the credit crunch. Now the abandoned site stands as a stark symbol of the collapse of Britain's building boom and how the credit market turmoil in the United States has seeped across the Atlantic. It also suggests what lies ahead for a few other European economies where property booms gave now debt-ridden consumers a false sense of wealth and security.
In recent weeks, Britons have come to an uncomfortable realization: After 17 years of uninterrupted growth, their economy is moving closer to recession and may well already be in one. Home prices are dropping, sapping consumer confidence, and even though repossessions, bankruptcies and unemployment are still at relative lows, they have started to creep up during the last three months.
Just Thursday, figures released by HBOS, the largest mortgage lender in Britain, showed the housing market slump was gathering pace. The average price of a property fell 8.8 percent in the 12 months through July, the biggest drop since the company started to track prices in 1983.
But the Bank of England is caught in a bind. It is unable to lower interest rates to keep the economy growing because, at the same time, inflation looms. It left lending rates unchanged at its meeting on Thursday.
As a result, many economists are predicting that the situation will sharply deteriorate over the next six months, leaving Britain to face a longer, more painful downturn than the United States.
"The U.S. has seen problems come through earlier and there was more action to lower interest rates than in the U.K., meaning the U.K. will be somewhat slower to recover," said Ian Harnett, managing director at Absolute Strategy Research in London.
Voters are blaming Prime Minister Gordon Brown for the economy's ills, giving his Labour Party its worst popularity rating since the early 1980s.
Britain's economy is in worse shape than most in Europe, with the exception of Spain and Ireland, because of its heavy reliance on two industries that currently struggle the most: housing and financial services.
At the height of the housing boom British banks were trying to outdo one another in their willingness to lend while rivals on the Continent were generally more constrained by regulation.
Leeds is among the cities hardest hit. Situated in the middle of the country, near Manchester and Liverpool, with a population of almost 450,000, it boomed in the late 1990s when technology and service companies set up shop here to profit from cheaper rents and proximity to a major university.
Demand for offices and apartments gave way to a construction boom that made Leeds Britain's fastest growing city in 2003 and christened the region the "Golden Triangle."
Now, many of Leeds's office buildings stand empty and their once trendy glass facades are cluttered with "For Sale" signs.
New developments, like the Lumiere project next to the train station, are being canceled as banks withdraw their financing. Another development, the "Kissing Towers," which would have provided 300 new apartments, was shelved last month.
North of the city center the picture is even bleaker. Overflowing garbage containers stand in front of boarded-up houses, and the city's charities are bracing for a busy autumn and winter.
Gordon Bell, chief executive of the Consumer Credit Counseling Service in Leeds, said calls to his team were already up 20 percent in the past three months and would likely rise further since personal bankruptcies were expected to increase next quarter.
Shahz Khuram, a 33-year-old taxi driver is increasingly nervous about his $160,000 mortgage on his two-bedroom apartment. The fixed-rate period ends next year and he will have to refinance.
"It's not only the mortgage rates that have gone up," he said. "Everything is more expensive. I have friends who are selling their cars to pay their mortgage."
He added, "I'm really working hard now to save some money but it's hard especially with the higher petrol prices."
The average interest payment for a mortgage in Britain rose to 5.8 percent from 5.6 percent in the 12 months through May. That seems low, but home prices dropped 4.4 percent in the same period, according to mortgage lender Nationwide
Repossessions are creeping up, and even property prices in London have started to fall, with values of homes in the most expensive neighborhoods, including Knightsbridge, down by 1.6 percent in July.
Property prices remain about 10 percent higher than three years ago but Standard & Poor's warned last month that prices could fall an additional 17 percent before the end of next year. That would leave about 1.7 million homeowners under water, holding mortgages exceeding the value of their properties.
The USDA released it's weekly export sales report at 13.30 BST today. Here's a note of what it reported, trade expectations in brackets:
Wheat 682,600MT (400-700,000MT)
Corn 337,900 MT old crop; 710,900 MT new crop (500-900,000MT)
Soybeans 374,400 MT old crop; 245,200 MT new crop (300-650,000MT)
Soymeal 59,000 MT old crop; 76,100 MT new crop (100-200,000MT)
Soyoil 3,600 MT old crop; NIL new crop (5-15,000MT)
eCBOT closed the overnight session with modest gains in a rebound from recent steep losses.
Soybeans closed around 20c firmer, corn up around 7c and wheat up 11-17 cents.
Early calls for this afternoon are: Corn is expected to open 4 to 6 higher, soybeans 15 to 20 higher, wheat 15 to 20 higher.
The USDA releases it's weekly export sales report at 13.30 BST today. Here's a note of what is expected:
Ahead of the USDA's August 12 production, supply and demand update, Allendale Inc. sees the Ag Department raising their corn estimate and lowering their soybean projection. The report is due out at 13:30 BST.
Allendale has corn at 12.030 billion bushels, up from the USDA's last guess of 11.715 billion but down from last year's total of 13.074 billion bushels. Soybeans are pegged at 2.971 billion bushels, down from the USDA's most recent projection of 3 billion but up from last year's final of 2.585 billion bushels. Allendale did not change their harvest acreage expectations for either crop and used an average yield for corn at 152.4 bushels per acre and an average yield for beans at 41.2 bushels per acre.
Wheat is pegged at 2.547 billion bushels, compared to the USDA's previous figure of 2.461 billion and the 2007/08 final of 2.067 billion bushels.
Allendale sees corn stocks at 1.092 billion bushels, but notes that if demand changes stocks will easily fall under than mark. Beans are estimated at 109 million bushels, which would be the lowest since 1972. U.S. wheat stocks are expected to be around 538 million bushels.
As of August 5, Ukrainian farmers harvested grains and grain legumes from the area of 9.77 mln ha (77% of the sowing areas). The harvest totaled 33.49 mln tonnes, the yield totaled 34.3 c/ha.
Agrarians harvested 5.73 mln ha of wheat, or 81% of forecasted value. The total wheat harvest is 21.05 mln tonnes, the yield totals 36.7 c/ha.
3.53 mln ha of barley are harvested (84% of forecasted value). The total barley harvest is 11.19 mln tonnes, the yield totals 31.7 c/ha.
233.600 ha of rye are harvested (50% of forecasted value). The total rye harvest is 529.300 tonnes, the yield totals 22.7 c/ha.
194.500 ha of peas are harvested (94% of forecasted value). The total peas harvest is 464.700 tonnes, the yiel totals 23.9 c/ha.
Ukrainian grain traders plan to export 6 mln tonnes of barley, up from earlier estimates of 4.5 mln tonnes, in 2008/09 MY, reported Vladimir Klimenko, President of Ukrainian Grain Association, on August 6.
Grain traders also plan to export 7 mln tonnes of wheat and 15-16 mln tonnes of maize in the current season, informed V. Klimenko.
Do the maths, 21m tonnes of wheat in the silos with 19% of the harvest still left to do, the wheat crop could in excess of 24 million, substantially higher than official estimates. Ditto the total grain crop at 33.5m with a quarter left to cut - Nogger
(CNNMoney.com) -- Oil prices eased from their highs Wednesday after the government reported a surprise increase in crude inventories last week.
Just before the Energy Information Administration released its report, oil was up $1.11 at $120.28, moments later crude was $117.64.
Crude oil inventories climbed by 1.7 million barrels in the week ended Aug. 1. Crude inventories are in the lower half of the average range for this time of year at 296.9 million barrels.
Analysts had forecast a loss of 1.2 million barrels of crude, according a survey from Platts, an energy research firm.
Corn is expected to open down 1, soybeans down 2 to 4, wheat up 5 to 7.
FWi -- Dairy Farmers of Britain has announced it made a loss of £3.6 million (after finance costs and tax) in the 12 months to March 2008.
The figure, outlined in the co-ops annual report and accounts, was worse than an equivalent loss of £2.6m in 2006/07 and was largely due to exceptional costs increasing from £1.91m to £3.97m as part of a planned business improvement programme.
There was also a fall in operating profit before exceptional costs, from £6m in 2006/07 to £4m in 2007/08.
Despite the seemingly gloomy figures, DFoB said the trading performance was slightly better than envisaged in the three-year business plan and the co-op was still on target to meet the aim of breaking-even before tax in the current financial year.
FWi -- Combines are continuing to dodge the showers, with some exciting early wheat yields produced in Lincolnshire.
Alan Hind’s Zebedee winter wheat was yielding fantastically well at Elm Tree Farm, near Grantham, averaging 11.7t/ha (4.75t/acre). “We can’t believe it – that’s a tonne an acre more than I ever could have hoped,” he said.
Combining of the second wheat only started on Monday (4 August), after some excellent rape and barley crops. “It just looks like a good corn year.”
In Pembrokeshire, Wales, Meurig Raymond hoped to finish his oilseed rape before the rain arrived. Yields had been disappointing, averaging 3.7-4.5t/ha (1.5-1.8t/acre), he said.
However, winter barley was yielding 5% above average, with Flagon and Suzuka coming in at 8t/ha (3.3t/acre).
Rain had stopped play at Duncan Whiteman’s Arlescott Farm, Telford, Shropshire, and combine breakdowns had added to the delays.
However, all the Camion winter barley was in the barn, yielding about 7.4t/ha (3t/acre) – slightly better than average. The Castille rape was only just fit, having taken a long time to ripen. “It’s at least a week behind normal,” he said.
In Surrey, Giles Porter was finding time for a quiet beer on Tuesday evening (5 August), having almost finished the winter barley and rape before the rain.
“The rape has been pleasantly surprising – it didn’t look very good all year with pigeon and slug damage,” he said. The Castille and Expert averaged 3.7t/ha (1.5t/ac), with winter barley also doing well at 6.9t/ha (2.8t/acre).
“We’ll probably be straight into the spring barley and wheat as soon as the weather dries up – it’s turning all the time and is all still standing.”
Daily Telegraph -- Drax Group, the owner of western Europe's biggest coal-fired power station, reported a 45pc decline in first-half profit as higher selling prices for its power was more than offset by increased costs for coal and carbon emission allowances.
Drax reported a profit before tax of £150m, down from £273m in the first half of last year, despite revenues leaping from £640m to £802m on the back of increased selling prices. It sold electricity for an average of £53.6 per megawatt hour, up from £48.1 a year ago.
The fall in profits came as the amount the company pays for coal and the cost of its emissions almost doubled over the period from £222m to £413m.
Coal has risen in price from $68 a tonne at the end of 2006 to $218 a tonne by the end of June 2008, while the need to buy more carbon emission permits - and the extra cost of them - pushed costs up from £11m to £108m over the period.
As of August 5, the Ukrainian rapeseed harvest was 95% complete at 2.813 mln tonnes the Ukraine Agricultural Ministry said. This is an increase of over 150% on last season's 1.1 million tonnes.
Nine-and-a-half degrees was as warm as it got between midday and three o'clock this afternoon in Adelaide, making it their coldest afternoon in at least eight years.
Adelaide reached it's daily maximum of 11.9 degrees before 11am then a cold front brought a burst of showers, 10 millimetres worth by eight o'clock in the evening. Freeling, about 40km north of Adelaide was one of the wettest in the state by evening with 15mm.
Just one week into the month Adelaide has now had more rain than during the whole of August last year and is more than half way to the monthly average of 68mm.
The warmest part of the day for much of South Australia was before midday and then rain and cold change arrived dropping temperatures to below 10 degrees, even in Whyalla.
It will be a wintry week ahead with showers likely each day and the temperature struggling to reach 15 degrees.
Meanwhile the South Coast copped a belting last night as a low developing near the coast drove heavy showers inland.
Most places along the coast and east of the ranges from Tomerong to Tathra picked up anywhere between 25 to 100mm over the night. Narooma had falls of 75mm, its heaviest in 18 months. Batemans Bay picked up 94mm, its wettest day in two years, and 10 years for August.
Even Braidwood up in the mountains experienced the heavy showers, getting 59mm to 9am, its heaviest daily falls in six years.
The wettest town in the whole country yesterday was Moruya. The airport there received 115mm, its equal wettest day in 9 years. It was the same for Moruya Heads, picking up 116mm. This was also its wettest day in 79 years for August.
Private analytical firm Informa Economics last night projected 2008 corn yields of 155.4 bushels, which would be 4.3 bushels above last year and the second- highest on record. Informa estimated total corn production at 12.33 billion bushels.
The estimates are higher than the U.S. Department of Agriculture's July projected production of 11.715 billion bushels and projected yields of 148.4 bushels per acre.
Commodity risk management firm FC Stone projected yields at 154.5 bushels per acre on Monday.
Farmer's Guardian -- DESPITE concerns over reduced consumer spending, free-range chicken sales have continued to grow on the back of high profile celebrity campaigns earlier this year.
Supermarket giant Sainsbury's has recorded a 60 per cent growth in higher welfare chicken and this week more than doubled its range to meet the growing demand.
The new poultry range will meet Freedom Food standards, and the supermarket expects sales to grow even further in the coming months.
The figures will come as a boost to celebrity chefs Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall whose high profile campaigns in January led to the retailer committing to phasing out standard chicken and switching to Freedom Food as its minimum requirement.
Judith Batchelar, director of Sainsbury’s brand said: “When we met Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall last year we said that Sainsbury’s would do everything it could to improve chicken welfare while providing our customers with choice and good value.
“We knew that higher welfare chicken sales would go up following the Channel 4 food series in January, however we are thrilled to see that customers have continued to buy chicken reared to higher standards.
“It demonstrates the strength of feeling for animal welfare issues and that with greater availability of affordable options our customers don’t have to compromise.”
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall said: “Sainsbury’s commitment to upgrade the minimum welfare standards of all their fresh chicken to the RSPCA welfare standards over the coming years will improve the lives of millions of British chickens, and this new initiative is clearly the first major step along that road. I welcome it wholeheartedly.”
Ukraine has raised its grain export forecast for '08-09 to 17.5 million tonnes from 15 million tonnes previously. This amount is 4.7 times greater than the country's '07-08 exports of 3.7 million tonnes.
Latest estimates peg the Ukraine grain crop in the region of 43-47 million tonnes, up sharply from 29 million tonnes in 2007.
Favourable weather also boosted Bulgaria's 2008 wheat crop to a 16-year high, opening the way for hefty exports, Agriculture Minister Valeri Tsvetanov said.
"Bumper crops are also reported in Russia and Romania. The Black Sea countries are awash with grain and will be very aggressive exporters in the coming season," said a German trader.
Russia has harvested 41.8 million metric tons of grain to August 4 on 11.9 million hectares, or 25% of the total planted area the agriculture ministry reported Tuesday.
The agriculture ministry said it expected this year's grain harvest at 85 million tons in clean weight, three million tons more than in 2007.
Get the calculators out. They've got nearly half the anticipated output off 25% of the planted area. I'm getting deja vu here. Didn't we have a similar situation with Ukraine recently? Didn't the Ukraine crop keep getting bigger & bigger as they got through the harvest, showing initial projections to have been somewhat "cautious"? They wouldn't be trying to avoid a collapse in grain prices by telling the world exactly how much grain they have to sell would they? What, the Russians, lying? Naked in a girls dormitory at 3 am?
Well my oh my. I've been bearish for a while as you may have noticed, but even I am shocked by the ferocity of this downwards movement.
The speculators, remember them, the ones who weren't in any way responsible for sending this market soaring are scrambling for the exit door.
There was a report earlier in the week that we in the UK were carrying a lot of old-crop grain into new crop, around 3mmt rings a bell, but I stand to be corrected. The big question has to be WHY?
Clearly being offered £200/tonne ex farm for your wheat simply wasn't enough for some.
Well, I'd like to say I've got some sympathy for them but frankly I haven't.
Ditto the flour millers, who suddenly appear to be crawling out of the woodwork as sellers when they've been standing away from it for so long. What a missed opportunity that was!
And don't even get me started on the crushers!
EU grain farmers & flour millers enjoying a day out standing away from the market recently.
Berwickshire News -- A local farmers co-operative is supplying Tesco with rapeseed oil just two years after starting production. Already known locally for its Oleifera rapeseed oil, the group of farmers is this week stocking more than 40 Tescos with its product, sold under the name of Border Fields Rapeseed Oil.
Eventually the oil will sell in 125 Tesco stores throughout Scotland and the north of England.
The co-operative's chairperson, Jill McGregor, said: "Rapeseed oil is growing in popularity as it offers a significant number of health benefits and we are delighted to be working with Tesco to make this product available to a wider market."
The group was started by Coldstream Mains farmers Jill and her husband Colin, about two and a half years ago. A further 12 other Borders, Berwickshire and north Northumberland farmers joined the entrepreneurs.
Mrs McGregor said: "We wanted to add value to a crop that we were growing and this obviously helps us by giving us a better return."
She first tried the Coldstream Mains homegrown oil squeezed from a small batch press ."I was thrilled," she said.
"It was really good to cook with and incredibly versatile. My children were happy to eat anything cooked with it and, knowing the health benefits, I was especially pleased."
Rapeseed oil is said to have half the saturated fat of olive oil and 10 times the level of Omega 3. It has a natural balance of Omegas 6 and 9 and high levels of vitamin E. It is also a very stable oil with a high burning point of 230 degrees centigrade.
Knowledge about the oil had gradually spread. While not many people appreciated it as a culinary oil two years ago, much of that has changed with celebrity chefs now recommending it for its health benefits, but also because it cooks to a much higher temperature than olive oil.
Lauded Scottish chef Nick Nairn is known to use Oleifera, the company's other brand, which sells in Sainsbury's and Asda.
The oil is all cold-pressed at a purpose-built production plant near Belford in north Northumberland and its shelf life is a year. It takes one tonne of oilseed rape to produce 300 litres of oil.
Sarah Mackie, head of Tesco Scotland, said: "We are delighted to launch oil that is produced from the oilseed rape that we see so often in Scotland, and we are delighted that our customers will be able now be able to purchase Border Fields oil from our stores."
LONDON (MarketWatch) -- HSBC Holdings on Monday reported a 29% drop in first-half net profit as bad debt charges surged to over $10 billion, though the bank still lifted its interim dividend payment.
Net profit for the period fell to $7.72 billion from $10.9 billion a year earlier and was broadly in line with market expectations. Loan impairment charges and other provisions jumped 58% to $10 billion.
HSBC said it remained profitable in all regions with the exception of North America, where its personal financial services business lost $2.2 billion due to the higher bad debt charges.
Chairman Stephen Green said financial markets "will not and should not," return to the situation they were in before the credit crisis.
"Ultimately, the real economy will recover from this crisis, although it may get worse before it gets better," he said.
FWi -- It has been an eventful few weeks for biofuels in Europe. Each week has brought another volley of criticism. Like a punch-drunk boxer, the biofuel industry is still there fighting, but to take the analogy further, a stumbling fighter attracts fewer bets.
It is no wonder that potential investors are looking elsewhere for better prospects, a development that could leave Europe dependent on imported biofuels, removing one of their main advantages. So what has led to this situation?
First we had the publication of the Renewable Energy Strategy and the Gallagher Review into the indirect effects of biofuel production. Both of these were reasonably balanced documents, and while I have a few queries about some of the assumptions made by Gallagher (particularly the different treatment of set-aside and unproductive land), overall they provide a sound framework that will still allow the European industry to move forward.
OPEC claims dismissed
Further mud was flung at biofuels by the oil cartel OPEC, which claimed that 40% of the price of crude oil could be attributed to bioethanol. The main European, Brazilian and North American bioethanol trade associations quickly responded in an open letter which politely suggested that OPEC president Chakib Khelil was talking out of his bottom. Since you, as head of OPEC, provide no explanation for what in our view constitutes a self-serving and misleading statement that goes counter to any independent analysis of the fuels market today, one can only conclude that OPEC views competition with biofuels as a direct threat, they wrote.
Next, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) published a report on 16 July which concluded that biofuels are currently highly dependent on public funding to be viable. The OECD says US, Canada and the European Union government support for the supply and use of biofuels is expected to rise to around $25bn a year by 2015 from about $11bn in 2006.
'The reduction of greenhouse gas emissions is a primary reason for current biofuel policies, but the savings are limited. Ethanol from sugar cane - the main feedstock used in Brazil - reduces greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% compared to fossil fuels. But emission reductions are much smaller from biofuels based on feedstocks used in Europe and North America.'
International Herald Tribune -- The first wave of Americans to default on their home mortgages appears to be cresting, but a second, far larger one is building with alarming speed.
After two years of upward spiraling defaults, the problems with mortgages made to people with weak, or subprime, credit are showing the first, tentative signs of leveling off.
But with the U.S. economy struggling, homeowners with better credit are now falling behind on their payments in growing numbers. The percentage of mortgages in arrears in the category of loans one rung above subprime, so-called alternative-A, or alt-A, mortgages, quadrupled to 12 percent in April from a year earlier. Delinquencies among prime loans, which account for most of the $12 trillion market, doubled to 2.7 percent in that time.
While it is difficult to draw precise parallels among various segments of the mortgage market, the arc of the crisis in subprime loans suggests that the problems in the broader market may not peak for another year or two, analysts said.
Defaults are likely to accelerate because many homeowners' monthly payments are rising rapidly. The higher bills come as home prices continue to decline and banks are tightening their lending standards, making it harder for people to refinance loans or sell their homes. Of particular concern are alt-A loans, many of which were made to people with good credit scores without proof of their income or assets.
Much will depend on the course of the economy, particularly unemployment. A weaker job market would push more homeowners toward the financial brink. The U.S. Labor Department reported Friday that the unemployment rate climbed to a four-year high in July. Other downbeat reports last week documented another drop in home prices, slower economic growth than expected and a huge loss at General Motors.
"Subprime was the tip of the iceberg," said Thomas Atteberry, president of First Pacific Advisors, a investment firm in Los Angeles that trades mortgage securities. "Prime will be far bigger in its impact."
During a conference call with analysts last month, James Dimon, the chairman and chief executive of JPMorgan Chase, said he expected losses on prime loans at his bank to triple and described the outlook for them as "terrible."
Delinquencies on mortgages tend to peak three to five years after loans are made, said Mark Fleming, the chief economist at First American CoreLogic, a research firm. Not surprisingly, subprime loans from 2005 appear closer to the end than those made in 2007, for which default rates continue to rise steeply.
"We will hit those points in a few years and that will help in many ways," Fleming said, referring to the loans made later in the housing boom. "We just have to survive through this part of the cycle."
What will sting borrowers more than rising interest rates, analysts say, is having to pay interest and principal every month after spending several years paying only interest or sometimes even less than that. Such loan terms were popular during the boom with alt-A and prime borrowers and made sense while home prices were rising and interest rates were low.
But now, payments could jump 50 percent or more for some borrowers, and they may not be able to sell their properties for as much as they owe.
Prime and alt-A borrowers typically had a five- or seven-year grace period before having to start making payments toward their principal. By contrast, subprime loans had a two- to three-year introductory period. That difference partly explains the lag in delinquencies between the two types of loans, said David Watts, an analyst with CreditSights.
"More delinquencies look like they are on the horizon because so few of them have reset," Watts said about alt-A mortgages.
Soybeans have taken up Monday morning where they left off Friday, sharply lower on concern China's imports may slow.
China, the world's biggest soybean importer, likely cut purchases of the oilseed for a second week as domestic demand lagged behind supply, Shanghai JC Intelligence Co. said on Aug. 1.
Traders may have ordered one to two cargoes of soybeans in the five days to Aug. 1 compared with as many as 20 shipments in the preceding two weeks, according to Shanghai JC.
Wilmar, China's biggest vegetable-oil supplier, lost as much as 13 Singapore cents, or 3 percent, to S$4.20, and traded at S$4.23 on the Singapore Stock Exchange.
Soybeans traded around 30c lower Monday, adding to losses of around 38-39 cents Friday.
Corn has followed beans lower closing around 22 cents lower Friday and adding another 5-6c to that so far this morning.
Wheat is still trying to divorce itself from beans & corn as it's price slide started much earlier. Wheat is currently around 2c easier on eCBOT.
French malting group Malteurop said on Friday it had bought the malting division of U.S. agriculture giant Archer Daniels Midland for an undisclosed sum.
Malteurop, which is controlled by the French farm cooperative group Champagne Cereales, and ADM Malting both specialise in processing barley into malt, which in turn is a key ingredient of beer and some other beverages.
"This operation assures Malteurop of the leading position in the malt industry worldwide, with a strong presence on the three leading beer markets," Malteurop said in a statement.
It added that it would also make it the biggest supplier of malt to international brewers. The French group is currently the number three malt producer worldwide, with a production of 1.2 million tonnes and sales of 407 million euros ($633.7 million), Malteurop said.
ADM Malting produces 742,000 tonnes of malt, Malteurop said.
Freese Notis -- A look back at the month of July shows that it was a favourable month of weather with regards to corn pollination for the bulk of the Corn Belt. Certainly temperatures were not a concern, with most of the Corn Belt region recording temperatures that were just a "smidge" below their normal levels.
Rainfall was the most notable feature of the month, and as has been the case since the growing season began it was a case of "too much of a good thing" in some places (especially northern Missouri and southern Iowa where there were a lot of places recording two to as much as four times their normal July totals). Below normal rainfall in July was most prevalent in Minnesota (and thus rains there yesterday were very beneficial, though very strong winds accompanying that rain likely put a lot of corn on the ground), Ohio, and northeastern Indiana.
Going forward into August of course is a hot start to the month. The worst of the heat still looks be in area west and south of the Missouri River, where there could be some places reaching 100 degrees Sunday and Monday. The least amount of heat in the Corn Belt will be in Ohio, as Tuesday may be their only day with high temperatures above the 95 degree mark. Delta crop areas look to really sizzle, with places there getting to 100 degrees today, 100-plus degree temperatures there through Tuesday, and any real notable cooling their holding off until about August 8.
The heat is going to break in the Corn Belt as we head into the middle of next week, with temperatures likely averaging a bit below normal in much of the region for August 7 to August 10. With the cool-down will come a rainfall threat for all of the Nation's midsection. That rain starts in the far northwestern Corn Belt by no later than Tuesday morning, and stays in the northern Corn Belt through Wednesday morning. The rain shifts to the central Plains, southern Corn Belt and Delta for the second half of next week, with weather models today suggesting that these will be the areas to see the best amounts and coverage.
August CBOT soybean contracts plunged 41 cents during the week, retreating from one-week highs, during an abrupt Friday freefall. "Mostly favourable weather in the Midwest is helping the (region's corn/soy) crop," said Doane Agricultural Services. "While some hot and dry weather is expected in the Midwest, the heat wave is forecast to be temporary, and soil moisture levels remain adequate."
September CBOT corn futures closed with losses of 12 1/4 cents, after late-week losses erased two-week highs achieved Wednesday. "There continues to be much debate regarding the final results of late-planted crops," said MF Global. "Most traders are looking for yield estimates sharply higher than previous USDA numbers ... as a result of near-perfect weather through the month of July."
September CBOT wheat lost 17 cents on the week despite a modest rally Friday. "There are no signs that cash wheat prices will go back to the $9-$10 level," said Oklahoma State University extension farm economist Kim Anderson. "Substantially higher wheat prices require lower-than-expected U.S. corn production, U.S. spring wheat production, or foreign wheat production. At the present time, this does not appear very likely."
November London feed wheat closed the week with a loss of £3.25/tonne on harvest pressure and reports of largely favourable yields across much of the EU.
As Gleadell note in their weekly report the volumes coming out of Bulgaria, Romania and the Ukraine are sizeable and are setting the benchmark for not just the Spanish Mediterranean market but also North Spain – both traditional UK markets. More worryingly, aggressive offers are being made into Brittany and ‘any origin’ feed wheat (eastern European origin) has traded into North Germany.
EU wheat production could rise well over the current estimate of 131 mln t – possibly to 134 mln t say Gleadell. This would give the EU an exportable surplus of approaching 20 mln t, and to compete on the export market at the moment our prices must move lower.
August Paris-based milling wheat closed the week with losses of just EUR0.50/tonne. These are some concerns that rains throughout June & July may adversely affect wheat quality in France, Germany, the UK and Ukraine. This is helping widen the differential between feed and milling grade wheats.
August Paris corn lost EUR9 on the week pressured by ideas that there is likely to be more feed grade wheat around in Europe this year than originally anticipated.
The Paris November rapeseed future lost EUR4.50 during the course of the week, largely due to harvest pressure. The UK harvest is seen around 40% complete and the word "variable" seems to be being widely used to describe it. The French and German crops however are reckoned to be around 90% done and yields and quality there are much better.
As with wheat the Ukraine has had a bumper rapeseed harvest & will be an aggressive exporter in the coming season.
September crude oil finished the week 37 cents higher than it ended the previous Friday. A volatile week saw it trade around $4 either side of the close with a low for the week of $120.42 and a high of $128.60/barrel.