Believe It or Not: WHIP+ Applications Processed, Decision Memo Pending

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Consensus: Hearings needed on livestock pricing issues



In Today’s Digital Newspaper


 

Market Focus:
• Markets closed Monday for Memorial Day
• MGEX raises margins on hard spring wheat futures
• Biden’s budget includes cap gains tax language taking effect sooner than most thought
• Costco warns of inflation
• Mexico concerned about taco inflation
• U.S. retailers scramble for goods
• Focus on PCE report today
• BOJ talks inflation and agrees with U.S. Fed
• Reserve Bank of New Zealand: Inflation a very different beast today
• Bitcoin hovers around 36,000

• Cost to move goods in container to Europe from Asia above $10,000 for first time
• Perspective on U.S. spring wheat crop
• Bloomberg Economics’ model: commodity prices mainly driven by risk appetite
• War of words between Canadian Pacific and CN isn’t over
• Brazil’s corn crop continues to decline
• Ag demand update
• Two-sided grain/soy action overnight after yesterday’s rally

• China’s wheat crop could help bridge any corn supply gap until corn harvest begins
• French soft wheat ratings improve
• Russia to lower duty on soybeans exports
• MGEX raises margins on hard spring wheat futures  
• Questions about this year’s seasonal pullback for beef
• Cash hog and pork prices continue to rise

Policy Focus:
• GOP infrastructure counterproposal falls short of congressional Dems’ wish list
• Biden budget assumes capital-gains tax rate increase started in late April: WSJ
• White House today will release President Biden’s first budget proposal
• Update on second half 2019-crop WHIP+, contract grower payments

China Update:
• What’s next for U.S./China trade policy/relations?
• China rivalry and a U.S. Senate measure
• What China is saying


Livestock, Food & Beverage Industry Update:
• Senate Ag Committee leaders agree: Need for hearing on livestock pricing, supply chain


Coronavirus Update:
• China accelerates vaccinations
• Olympics plans

Politics & Elections:
• Ryan urges GOP to end its preoccupation with Trump

Other Items of Note:
• Cotton AWP eases for a second week
• Assad wins fourth term
• Russia appears to be carrying out a cyberattack through an email
• EPA to revise Trump-era water rule
• A penny saved is not a penny earned

 


MARKET FOCUS


 

Equities today: Global stock markets were mostly firmer overnight. U.S. stock indexes are pointed toward higher openings. Today’s report on April personal consumption (consumer spending) will shed more light on present inflationary pressures. Personal spending in April is seen up 0.5% from March and up 3.5%, year-on-year.  Asian markets were mostly higher amid optimism about economic growth and receding inflation concerns. Japan’s Nikkei was up 600.40 points, 2.10%, at 29,149.41. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng rose 11.21 points, 0.04%, at 29,124.41. European equity markets are seeing gains in early action. The Stoxx 600 was up 0.5% with regional markets seeing gains of 0.2% to 0.7%.

 

     U.S. equities yesterday: The Dow closed up 141.59 points, 0.41%, at 34,464.64. The Nasdaq eased 1.72 points, 0.01%, at 13,736.28. The S&P 500 rose 4.89 points, 0.12%, at 4,200.98.

 

     Stocks

On tap today:

     • U.S. personal income for April is expected to fall 14% and consumer spending is expected to rise 0.5% from a month earlier. (8:30 a.m. ET)
     • Personal consumption expenditure price index excluding food and energy for April is expected to increase 0.6% from a month earlier and 2.9% from a year earlier. (8:30 a.m. ET)
     • U.S. advance indicators report is out at 8:30 a.m. ET.
     • Chicago purchasing managers index is expected to fall to 68 in May from 72.1 a month earlier. (9:45 a.m. ET)
     • University of Michigan consumer sentiment index for May is expected to tick up to 83 from a preliminary reading of 82.8. (10 a.m. ET)
     • Baker Hughes rig count is out at 1 p.m. ET.
     • President Biden is scheduled to release his fiscal year 2022 budget today at 2 p.m. ET.
     • CFTC Commitments of Traders report is out at 3:30 p.m. ET.

Costco warns of inflation. Costco Wholesale said demand surged in its latest quarter as the U.S. economy began to rev up, but the club-store chain warned it is facing higher costs for everything from workers to imported cheese. In March, the company estimated inflation was rising in the 1% to 1.5% range, but now it thinks it is up 2.5% to 3.5%, excluding gasoline sales.

Economists are forecasting the price index for personal consumption expenditures excluding food and energy, a measure of inflation closely tracked by the Federal Reserve, will increase 0.6% from March to April. That would be the biggest such jump since 2001. The official results come later this morning.

Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda told Bloomberg News that inflation concerns were most relevant in the U.S. and cited Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell’s view that price pressures will prove transitory, and stimulus should stay in place for longer. “That policy stance is based on the recognition that it will take time to overcome low inflation once it is entrenched,” Kuroda said. “That is the lesson learned from Japan’s experience of prolonged deflation.”

     Meantime, Reserve Bank of New Zealand Governor Adrian Orr said inflation is a very different beast today than it was in the 1970s, giving central banks the confidence to look through a short-term spike in prices. “The fear of the 70s, the 80s, stagflation, it is such a different world,” Orr said in an interview with Bloomberg Television . Central banks today are “prepared to wait longer because they’re more confident that we have stable inflation expectations, we have a much more flexible set of pricing, we have less of that generalized inflation,” he said.

Mexico is concerned about taco inflation. Surging prices of tortillas and other ingredients of Mexico’s widely consumed tacos are squeezing consumers and becoming a headache for policy makers. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador — with an eye on next month’s midterm elections — has called for prices to be kept in check. Meanwhile, the country’s central bank points to a historic drought as the major cause of the sticker shock, while debating ways to alleviate it. “The spike we’ve seen in fresh food as a result of climate change should remind us that central banks also have a role to play in sustainable financing and reducing the risks of climate change,” Deputy Central Bank Governor Irene Espinosa said in an interview last week. “This can turn into a snowball that generates bigger inflationary pressures.”

     Taco inflation

Another big rush is on at U.S. stores, but now it’s the retailers scrambling for goods. Big retail chains say they are struggling to bring in enough products to sell amid surging demand from American consumers. The Wall Street Journal writes (link) the store owners’ spending is adding a new twist to the inventory challenges that surfaced last year when shoppers hurried to buy items such as toilet paper and bikes. Now, purchasing teams are dealing with the leanest levels of inventory relative to sales on record along with strains on supply chains from factories to ports to warehouses. They risk potentially losing out on sales as consumers have historic levels of money to spend. Not everyone is anxious to stack shelves higher. Abercrombie & Fitch CEO Fran Horowitz says one lesson of the past year is “you can have a strong, profitable business with less inventory.”

     Retail sales

Market perspectives:

     • Outside markets: The U.S. dollar index is higher. Nymex crude oil prices are higher, near this year’s high, and trading around $67.25 a barrel. The yield on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury note is presently fetching around 1.61%. Gold and silver futures were lower ahead of US inflation data. Gold was trading near $1,894 per troy ounce and silver under $27.75 per troy ounce.

     • Markets closed Monday for Memorial Day. Grain and livestock futures will close at their usual times today, but markets and government offices will be closed Monday for Memorial Day. Grains reopen for the overnight session on Monday, May 31. Livestock re-opens at 8:30 a.m. CT on Tuesday.

     • MGEX raises margins on hard spring wheat futures. The Minneapolis Grain Exchange announced it will raise maintenance margins on HRS wheat futures from $2,100 per contract to $2,300 per contract for July 2021 and July 2022. The changes take effect at the close of business today.

     • Crude oil prices are higher ahead of the U.S. trading start, with US crude trading around $67.25 per barrel and Brent around $69.50 per barrel. Futures were little changed in Asian action, with U.S. crude up 11 cents at $66.96 per barrel and Brent up 8 cents at $69.54 per barrel.

     • Big trading range for Bitcoin. Bitcoin closed last Friday at a little more than $35,000. This Friday, Bitcoin is trading around $36,000. But over that span, prices have risen as high as $42,000 and dropped as low as $31,000.

     • Cost to move goods in a container to Europe from Asia shot above $10,000 for the first time, underscoring the pain of exporters and importers struggling with stretched supply chains. Example: $10,174 is the average spot shipping rate per 40-foot container from Shanghai to Rotterdam last week, up 485% from a year ago and the highest level in records dating to 2011.

     • Perspective on U.S. spring wheat crop: There have been six years, including this year, since USDA started national crop ratings in 1986 in which the spring wheat crop was rated under 50% “good” to “excellent” at any point in the growing season. All six times, the final spring wheat yield was below trendline, according to Pro Farmer analysts.

     • A new Bloomberg Economics’ model shows movements in commodity prices this year have been mainly driven by risk appetite, not fundamental demand or shortages of supply. In the great inflation debate, the rally in everything from copper to soybeans to lumber has been a point in favor of the reflation hawks. As the recent fall from the peak suggests, a rise in commodity prices driven primarily by speculation is also prone to a sudden reversal, so the hawks’ argument is not as strong as it first appears, though the debate is far from over, the report notes.

    Risk appetite

     • Canadian Pacific says rival Canadian National’s offer to divest some track “doesn’t even come close” to resolving competition concerns in the Kansas City Southern acquisition. The war of words between Canadian Pacific and CN isn’t over, with CP on May 27 issuing a statement that its merger rival’s commitment to divest Kansas City Southern’s New Orleans-Baton Rouge line is a “token divestment [that] would not begin to address the competitive issues in the rail corridors running north from Louisiana and Mississippi through America’s heartland, where KCS and CN have historically competed.”

    NAR

     • Brazil’s corn crop continues to decline.  Commodity analyst and trader Richard Crow says: “The crop condition reports raise questions of the crop being toward a sub-90-million-ton crop. The cash market has firmed for the deferred Brazil bids.  Argentina is the cheapest corn today for new buyers. The large rally in corn yesterday was contributed to the larger sales than expected and having 100,000 tons sale to China. If China is buying corn, it takes away the idea of them rolling purchases. Old-crop corn basis remains firm, and the old/new spread widened to 110 plus.”

     • Weather summary: Cool temps will spread across the U.S. for the weekend.  Rains across Oklahoma spreads east over the weekend.  The Northern Plains remains on the dry side. Brazil is dry. 

     • Ag demand: Indonesia bought 60,000 MT of wheat from the Black Sea region this week. Tunisia canceled a tender to buy around 92,000 MT of optional-origins soft wheat.

Items in Pro Farmer's First Thing Today include:

     • Two-sided grain/soy action overnight after yesterday’s rally
     • China’s wheat crop could help bridge any corn supply gap until corn harvest begins
     • French soft wheat ratings improve
     • Russia to lower duty on soybeans exports
     • MGEX raises margins on hard spring wheat futures  
     • Questions about this year’s seasonal pullback for beef
     • Cash hog and pork prices continue to rise

 


POLICY FOCUS


 

— As expected, GOP infrastructure counterproposal falls short of congressional Democrats’ wish list. At roughly $928 billion, the Republican’s latest offer is well short of what the White House has proposed and definitely not near what congressional Democrats are pushing. Only about a quarter of the total price tag appears to represent new spending above existing or expected levels under the “roadmap” put forward by Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.) and her GOP counterparts. But lawmakers still stressed that their retooled approach “delivers on much” of what Biden had recommended in earlier talks between the two sides. “Senate Republicans continue to negotiate in good faith,” Capito said at a press conference unveiling the blueprint.

     GOP plan details. The Republican plan proposes more than $500 billion for roads, $98 billion for public transit, $46 billion for passenger rail and more than $70 billion for water infrastructure. Republicans recommended additional spending for ports, waterways, airports and broadband connectivity, maintaining their belief that any package should hew to what they describe as traditional infrastructure.

     Republican pay-fors also not favored by Democrats. Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), one of the lawmakers involved in the talks, said Thursday that they count about $700 billion in still-unspent funds under the last coronavirus relief package. That includes money designated for use between 2022 and 2031 to help state and local governments, bolster coronavirus testing and expand the child tax credit, all major Democratic priorities. “We believe that repurposing these funds needs to be a really important part of how we fill this gap," Toomey said.

     Psaki replies.  Press Secretary Jen Psaki responded, “We are grateful for the work of Senator Capito and her colleagues on this proposal. It is encouraging to see her group come forward with a substantially increased funding level — nearing $1 trillion. We appreciate the hard work that went in to making this proposal and continuing these negotiations. Senator Capito told the president that her team would provide us with more details later today, and we look forward to getting that information. At first review, we note several constructive additions to the group’s previous proposals, including on roads, bridges and rail. At the same time, we remain concerned that their plan still provides no substantial new funds for critical job-creating needs, such as fixing our veterans’ hospitals, building modern rail systems, repairing our transit systems, removing dangerous lead pipes, and powering America’s leadership in a job-creating clean energy economy, among other things. Lastly, we are concerned that the proposal on how to pay for the plan remains unclear: we are worried that major cuts in Covid relief funds could imperil pending aid to small businesses, restaurants and rural hospitals using this money to get back on their feet after the crush of the pandemic. As for the path forward, the president called Senator Capito thank her for the proposal, and to tell her that he would follow-up after getting additional detail. We are also continuing to explore other proposals that we hope will emerge. Though there are no votes in Congress next week, we will work actively with members of the House and Senate next week, so that there is a clear direction on how to advance much needed jobs legislation when Congress resumes legislative business during the week of June 7.”

     Bottom line: Biden said he briefly spoke yesterday with Sen. Capito, who’s been leading the Republican counterproposals, and plans to meet with her “sometime next week.” But he warned that the window for a deal will shut soon. The president maintains he prefers a bipartisan solution. But his Democratic counterparts in Congress want to go it alone, thinking Republicans are just dragging out the process. Senate Republicans are framing their proposal as in line with what Biden personally told them he found acceptable during a recent White House meeting, which was a $1-trillion to $1.2-trillion deal, down significantly from the White House’s latest counterproposal of $1.7 trillion. Biden referenced a second group of lawmakers who are working on a backup proposal, expressing interest in their ideas. Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) is working with a bipartisan group of seven other lawmakers on a plan in case the Capito-Biden talks fall through. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) indicated in a CNBC interview Thursday morning that Capito’s latest proposal was not the Republicans’ final offer on infrastructure. “We’re open to spending some more,” he said. Even if the parties come to an agreement on the top-line price tag for an infrastructure package, thorny issues await in terms of how to pay for it. The funding issues has defeated infrastructure reform efforts in other years.

— Biden budget assumes capital-gains tax rate increase started in late April: WSJ. President Biden’s budget assumes that his proposed capital-gains tax rate increase took effect in late April, meaning that it would already be too late for high-income investors to realize gains at the lower tax rates if Congress agrees, the Wall Street Journal reported (link). Congress must still approve any rate changes and retroactive effective dates, and there is already reluctance building among some congressional Democrats.

     Money

— White House today will release President Biden’s first budget proposal. The president is proposing a $6 trillion budget for fiscal year 2022, which begins Oct. 1, according to reports. The budget will lay out how the president’s plans for spending over the next decade on infrastructure and social programs, such as paid family leave and universal preschool, will affect federal debt and deficits. (Budget is officially released at 2 p.m. ET.)

     The headline figures, according to the New York Times:

  • $6 trillion in spending for the 2022 fiscal year, rising to $8.2 trillion by 2031.
  • A deficit of $1.8 trillion next year, falling to $1.6 trillion by 2031.
  • Debt relative to the size of the economy that rises to its highest level in history, reaching 117% of GDP in 2031.

     Some other numbers also important:

  • Inflation is forecast to remain below 2.3% through 2031, showing little fear of an overheating economy.
  • Economic growth is projected to hit 5.2% this year, but then settle at just under 2% in later years.
  • Despite big debts, interest costs are expected to run below the long-term average of 2 percent of GDP because of low interest rates.

     Bottom line: The budget is simply a request to Congress, so Biden must win over moderate Democrats to approve his plans, assuming that all Republicans oppose them. As the saying goes, the coming budget is aspirational and will clearly show the spend-happy ways of the Biden presidency.

— It’s the end of May… where are the second-half 2019-crop WHIP+ payouts? What about the delayed payments to contract growers? Farmers, ranchers and farm-state lawmakers are asking the same question to USDA: What is taking so long to get promised payments out? (We have some potentially good news below on this.)

     Senate Ag Chair Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) is urging USDA to “swiftly” implement provisions included in the two latest coronavirus relief bills to protect food and farm workers and increase the resiliency of the U.S. agricultural supply chain. In a May 25 letter to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, Stabenow highlighted the supply chain provisions of the American Rescue Plan as well as programs in the consolidated appropriations bill intended to increase food assistance and safeguard workers from Covid-19. Language in the two measures provided a combined $5.5 billion to USDA for those efforts. “As USDA begins to implement these investments, I encourage the Department to take swift action and use creative approaches to help farmers and families recover from the pandemic,” Stabenow wrote in the letter.

     Stabenow also noted the capacity of some existing programs at USDA to help make the supply chain more resilient and flexible in the face of large-scale disruptions. “Allocating a portion of the funding toward programs like the Healthy Food Financing Initiative and the Local Agriculture Market Program Regional Partnerships will help ensure we are reaching all facets of the supply chain to improve food access and respond to Covid-19,” she wrote.

     But many farmers are asking about the much-delayed WHIP+ payments, and the announced but still not delivered payouts to contact growers. As for contract growers: The prior announcement was no more than $1 billion for contract growers of livestock and poultry to cover up to 80% of calendar year revenue losses, as determined by the Ag secretary. But USDA sources say this “requires modified regulations to equitably implement assistance.” Equity as we have seen can either go fast, in the case of the at let $4 trillion payments to selected minority farmers (beginning in June), but not so fast for others. As for WHIP+ information, USDA and some congressional contacts previously said an announcement would be made in late May. It’s late May. Perhaps we should have asked what year.

     Comments: A White House contact, asked for any feedback on WHIP+ matters, said checks with USDA signal that the WHIP+ applications are done and that a decision memo is pending (apparently sitting on the right-side of USDA Sec. Tom Vilsack's desk….).
 


CHINA UPDATE



What’s next for U.S./China trade policy/relations? The Biden administration is drafting a comprehensive strategy toward China, a complex interagency procedure that could last into early next year. “We welcome the competition,” U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai told lawmakers earlier this month. “But the competition must be fair, and if China cannot or will not adapt to international rules and norms, we must be bold and creative in taking steps to level the playing field and enhance our own capabilities and partnerships.”

— China rivalry and a U.S. Senate measure. The U.S. Senate is moving slowly toward passage of an expansive bill to bolster economic competitiveness and confront China’s rise, debating some last amendments before a final vote. The Senate bill is titled the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act of 2021 (USICA). The measure would sink more than $100 billion into U.S. research and development and provide $52 billion to advance domestic semiconductor manufacturing. It also includes a wide range of measures directly targeting China, such as its human rights record, a day after a Beijing-drafted resolution effectively ended open elections in Hong Kong. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) still hopes to pass USICA before senators leave Washington for the holiday weekend. President Biden is also ready to sign the bill as the administration wraps up an initial supply-chain review on computer chips, EVs batteries, pharmaceuticals and minerals used in electronics.

— What China is saying. The social media account Taoran, reportedly run by a senior reporter at the official Economic Daily, commented on the U.S./China trade call an the call this week between top U.S. and Chinese trade officials.

     Some excerpts:

     “On the one hand, it is the stable role of economic and trade cooperation in Sino/U.S. relations that remains important.

     “Right now, Sino/U.S. relations have encountered serious difficulties unprecedented since the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

     “High-level exchanges between China and the U.S. in different fields have thus stalled or even come to a halt, and the economic and trade field is no exception.

     “But what needs to be viewed calmly is that even when the U.S. side is smearing and suppressing China and instigating public opinion, leading to an accelerated deterioration of Sino/U.S. relations and fracturing to a historic low, economic and trade cooperation remains a relatively stable area between China and the U.S., which is important for normalizing relations between China and the U.S. and ensuring that Sino/.S. relations do not go off the rails or cross the red line...

     “The Chinese press release mentions that ‘both sides consider the development of bilateral trade to be very important,’ while the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) has also stated ‘the importance of discussing the U.S./China trade relationship.’ The Chinese and U.S. wording is consistent in the direction of expression, indicating that both sides have a high degree of consensus on the issue of economic and trade remains the ballast of U.S.-China relations.

     “In fact, exchanges between China and the United States in the field of trade and economy have become one of the few communication platforms in Sino/U.S. relations since last year.

     “Even the first phase of the economic and trade agreement, which is full of disputes, has highlighted many unexpected effects — the agreement was signed to solve the economic and trade friction between China and the United States, but after the outbreak of the epidemic and the sharp turn of events in China/U.S. relations, it has become a link to stabilize China/U.S. relations and maintain the ties between China and the United States, playing an important bottom-holding role.”
 


LIVESTOCK, FOOD & BEVERAGE INDUSTRY


 

— Senate Ag Committee leaders agree: Need for hearing on livestock pricing, supply chain. The key topic at a Thursday hearing for USDA General Counsel-nominee Janie Simms Hipp was concerns meatpackers are using their market heft to drive down prices paid to producers. Several GOP senators led by the panel’s ranking member John Boozman (R-Ark.) was joined by Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) in calling for a hearing on the matter to “look for solutions,” as Stabenow put it. Sen. Roger Marshall (R-Kan.) told Hipp “my phone is blowing up with this issue.”

     Sens. Boozman, John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Roger Marshall (R-Kan.) and Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) told Hipp they are concerned about the cattle markets because boxed beef prices are high while cattle prices are stagnant. “My phone is blowing up on this issue,” Marshall said, with fifth- and sixth-generation Kansas ranchers telling him their operations are endangered. In some cases, a single buyer will show up, offer a price and say, “Take it or leave it,” he said.

     Hipp said her phone is also “blowing up,” and she promised to enforce the Packers and Stockyards Act and be in close contact with the Justice Department on antitrust issues. “I commit to you that I will get on this [cattle price transparency] as one of my very, very top priorities,” said Hipp. Of note, Hipp said that she needs an economist and a scientist “at my elbow” to inform her about the technical issues in agriculture.

     Last week, six farm groups called on the Justice Department to investigate the highly consolidated meatpacking industry, where four companies slaughter more than 80% of all beef cattle and only a fraction of cattle are sold on the spot market.

     The meat industry responds. “Cattle prices are where they are because they follow supply and demand,” said the North American Meat Institute, speaking for meatpackers. The industry says the July 2020 USDA report exonerated it of any wrongdoing. “The disruption in the beef markets was due to devastating and unprecedented events.” Link for details.

     Besides a Senate Ag hearing on livestock pricing issues, others are urging a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the issue as well.

     Regarding biofuels, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) asked Hipp if she would defend the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) to the Environmental Protection Agency. Hipp promise she will be “a big voice at the interdepartmental table.”

     Boozman and other lawmakers tried to get Hipp to answer whether or not USDA had the authority to tap the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) for climate change aspects, including a carbon bank. Hipp said the CCC has many authorities and has been used in many ways to help farmers, but that she has not done the legal research to render any opinion on whether carbon is a commodity or whether USDA can use the CCC to set up a carbon bank, as Robert Bonnie, Vilsack’s climate adviser and President Biden’s nominee to be USDA undersecretary for food production and conservation, has argued in the past. Bonnie is up for confirmation and will be asked about this topic ahead. Republicans have said they do not believe USDA has the authority to set up a carbon bank unless it receives that authority from Congress.

     Another key livestock issue is when and how USDA will release promised payments to contract producers. Boozman told Hipp he hopes the Office of General Counsel “can assist USDA in releasing nearly $2 billion in financial relief to contract poultry and livestock producers and expediting the regulatory approval for billions more in assistance to producers of agricultural commodities affected by the pandemic.”

     As for Hipp, Stabenow cited her broad experience and noted “she is the first general counsel nominee in more than 20 years to have a background this expansive in agricultural law.” Boozman said she has “a deep bond in Arkansas,” having received her master’s in agriculture and food law from the University of Arkansas and working at the law school.
 


CORONAVIRUS UPDATE


 

Summary: Global cases of Covid-19 are at 169,008,339 with 3,512,719 deaths, according to data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. The U.S. case count is at 33,218,045 with 593,288 deaths. The Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center said that there have been 290,724,607 doses administered, 132,769,894 have been fully vaccinated, or 40.44% of the U.S. population.

— China accelerates vaccinations. After a slow start, China’s vaccination campaign is roaring into action and now accounts for around half of the doses being distributed daily around the world. If the pace holds, it could overturn expectations of the pace of recovery in Asia and emerging markets globally. About 20 million vaccines were distributed on Thursday alone and over the past week, vaccinations have proceeded at a pace faster than the U.S., European Union or U.K. have registered at any point during their rollout.

     Vaccines around the world

— Olympics plans. The EU and Japan have officially endorsed Tokyo hosting the Olympic Games, set to begin on July 23, citing the EU’s export of 100 million vaccine doses to Japan. Currently, just 5% f Japan’s population has received one shot. As a result, the Olympics face significant public opposition in Japan, with one of the country’s major newspapers — and a sponsor of the Games — joining the call for the event to be canceled. The chairman of the Japan Doctors Union warned Thursday that a “Tokyo Olympic strain” of the coronavirus could emerge if the Games go ahead.


POLITICS & ELECTIONS


— Paul Ryan critiques Trump’s grip on the Republican Party. The Republican former House speaker, urged Republicans to reject “the populist appeal of one personality.” In a speech, Ryan called on the Republican Party not to move forward in Donald Trump’s image, though he did not criticize the former president by name. Ryan did not break with Trump until after the former speaker left office. “Here’s one reality we have to face,” Mr. Ryan said during a speech at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif. “If the conservative cause depends on the populist appeal of one personality, or on second-rate imitations, then we’re not going anywhere.” Ryan was seen as a relatively weaker House Speaker.
 


OTHER ITEMS OF NOTE     



— Cotton AWP eases for a second week. The Adjusted World Price (AWP) for Upland Cotton declined slightly to 67.77 cents per pound, effective today (May 28), down from 67.91 cents per pound and the second weekly decline in a row. Meanwhile, USDA said that Special Import Quota #6 will be established June 3 for the importation of 43,009 bales of Upland Cotton, applying to supplies purchased not later than Aug. 31 and entered into the U.S. not later than Nov. 29.

— Assad wins fourth term. As expected, Syria’s head of parliament announced Thursday that President Bashar al-Assad was re-elected with 95% of the votes in an election Western critics called fraudulent. The victory gives Assad another seven years in power. Syria’s opposition leader said the vote would only further entrench Syria’s plight after a decade of civil war. “This insistence on clinging to power does not bring stability,” Abdul Azim told Reuters.

— Russia appears to be carrying out a cyberattack through an email system that the State Department’s international aid agency uses, according to Microsoft. Meanwhile, the U.S. will not rejoin an agreement with Russia that allows the countries to monitor each other’s military movements.

— EPA to revise Trump-era water rule. The EPA plans to revise a Trump-era water rule that rolled back a state or tribe’s veto power over proposals such as pipelines that could contaminate streams and wetlands. EPA said the Trump rule, the 2020 Clean Water Act Section 401 Certification Rule, which took effect in July, erodes state and tribal sovereignty. It said its revision will strengthen states’ and tribes’ authority to protect water. The agency said its revision will strengthen states’ and tribes’ authority to protect water. The EPA said it would begin a public feedback process about the possible revision in June. The Trump rule will remain in effect while the EPA is revising it.

— A penny saved is not a penny earned. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen appeared before a House subcommittee Thursday to talk about the economy, Biden's budget and, very briefly, the penny. The U.S. Mint shipped more than 8 billion last year — and each one cost more to produce than it was worth. The question, from Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wisc.): "Are we still gonna keep the penny?" The answer from Yellen: "I don't think there's active consideration of getting rid of the penny."

      Cost of producing pennies
 


 

 

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