First USDA Survey Estimates of Key Crops Released Today
Rhine River to become virtually impassable at key waypoint in Germany today
In Today’s Digital Newspaper
USDA’s first survey-based estimates of U.S. corn, soybeans and other crops come today, with the monthly WASDE report.
The House is set to approve today a climate, healthcare and tax bill, less than a week after the Senate passed the measure.
Western aid to Ukraine is arriving slowly, forcing Kyiv to print money to pay soldiers. Ukraine’s finance minister is struggling with a yawning gap between the cost of the war and depressed tax revenues in an economy battered by the invasion. More on the Russia/Ukraine war below.
McDonald's is starting to reopen in Ukraine. After closing its restaurants in Ukraine six months ago because of the Russian invasion, McDonald's is starting to reopen in parts of the country.
The Rhine — northwest Europe’s most important river for the transport of industrial goods, including energy products such as diesel and coal — is set to become virtually impassable at a key waypoint in Germany on Friday, due to low water amid a scorching heat wave.
U.S. home prices continued to climb across nearly all of the U.S. in the second quarter, when buyer demand started to fade due to higher mortgage rates but still exceeded the housing market’s unusually low supply.
Britain’s GDP contracted by 0.1% in the three months to June, compared with the previous quarter. The new GDP numbers signal another blow to Britain’s faltering economy.
IRS backlog: As of July 29, the agency has a backlog of 10.2 million individual returns.
Massachusetts officials will wait for a Supreme Court ruling on California’s Proposition 12 animal welfare rules before enforcing similar regulations that would ban the sale of pork from out-of-state farms that do not give hogs enough room to lie down, stand up, fully extend their legs, or turn around freely.
The CDC is no longer recommending restrictive measures such as quarantines and social distancing to prevent the spread of Covid-19. In new guidelines released Thursday, the agency said it is no longer necessary to stay at least 6 feet away from others to reduce the risk of exposure -- a shift from the guidance that had been in place since the early days of the pandemic.
Former President Trump late Thursday called for the release of the warrant allowing the FBI to raid his Mar-a-Lago home earlier this week. “Release the Documents Now!” he wrote on his social media platform Truth Social. Trump’s comments came hours after Attorney General Merrick Garland said that the Justice Department had moved to unseal the warrant.
Regarding Nov. 8 elections, whose baggage will weigh heaviest this fall? That’s the question veteran election watcher Charlie Cook of the Cook Political Report with Amy Walter tries to answer. His response is in the Politics & Elections section.
Election Day 2022 is 88 days away. Election Day 2024 is 816 days away.
Equities today: Global stock markets were mostly flat overnight. U.S. stock indexes are pointed toward firmer openings. Next week, markets will get even more information about how inflation is affecting consumers as Walmart, Target, Home Depot and Lowe’s are all set to report quarterly results. In Asia, Japan +2.6%. Hong Kong +0.5%. China -0.2%. India +0.2%. In Europe, at midday, London +0.4%. Paris +0.2%. Frankfurt +0.5%.
U.S. equities yesterday: The Dow was up 27.16 points, 0.08%, at 33,336.67. The Nasdaq declined 74.89 points, 0.58%, at 12,779.27. The S&P 500 eased 2.97 points, 0.07%, at 4,207.27.
A new Nasdaq bull market won't be confirmed until the index takes out its previous all-time high of 16,057 set on Nov. 19, 2021.
Agriculture markets yesterday:
- Corn: December corn futures rose 9 1/4 cents to $6.27 3/4, the contract’s highest closing price since July 11.
- Soy complex: November soybeans rose 20 3/4 cents to $14.48 1/2, the contract’s highest closing price since July 29. September soymeal jumped $6.90 to $456.50, a lifetime-high close for the contract. September soyoil rose 192 points to 69.30 cents, a seven-week closing high.
- Wheat: September SRW wheat gained 11 cents to $8.10 3/4, the contract’s highest closing price since July 28. September HRW wheat rose 16 1/2 cents to $8.89 1/4. September spring wheat rose 15 1/2 cents to $9.21 3/4.
- Cotton: December cotton futures soared 365 points to 104.59 cents per pound, the contract’s highest closing price since June 22.
- Cattle: August live cattle surged $1.40 to $140.60, while most-active October climbed 62.5 cents to $145.10, the contract’s highest close since April 22. September feeders fell 40 cents to $184.60.
- Hogs: August lean hogs rose 15 cents to $122.40, the highest close for a nearby contract since June 2021. October futures rose 22 1/2 cents to $101.075, a lifetime-high close for the contract.
Ag markets today: After two-sided trade earlier overnight, a weaker tone has developed in the grain and soy markets this morning, led lower by wheat. As of 7:30 a.m. ET, corn futures were trading 1 to 2 cents lower, soybeans were 7 to 11 cents lower and wheat futures were 10 to 13 cents lower. Front-month crude oil futures were around $1.40 lower and the U.S. dollar index was up more than 450 points.
Technical viewpoints from Jim Wyckoff:
On tap today:
• U.S. import prices for July are expected to fall 1% from the prior month. (8:30 a.m. ET)
• University of Michigan's consumer sentiment index is expected to increase to 52.5 in the opening weeks of August from a final reading of 51.5 in July. (10 a.m. ET)
• USDA Crop Production and WASDE reports, 12:00 noon ET
• Baker Hughes rig count is out at 1 p.m. ET.
• CFTC Commitments of Traders report, 3:30 p.m. ET.
U.S. home prices continued to climb across nearly all of the U.S. in the second quarter, when buyer demand started to fade due to higher mortgage rates but still exceeded the housing market’s unusually low supply. The median single-family existing-home sales price rose 14.2% from a year ago to $413,500, a record, according to the National Association of Realtors. Median prices rose by more than 10% from a year earlier in 80% of the 185 metro areas, up from the first quarter when 70% of metro areas reported double-digit-percentage growth.
Mortgage rates climbed above 5% this week.
Goldman Sachs said home price growth is likely to slow down dramatically for the rest of this year and next.
New York City’s median monthly rent hit a record $3,500 in June; Manhattan’s rose to $4,100 a month.
Bike glut. Bicycle dealers ordered inventory as if pandemic demand would last for years, and now they have too many bikes they can’t sell.
U.S. federal regulators have begun taking public comments on a proposal to impose minimum standards on airline seat width and legroom to put a halt to the many years of seat shrinkage. Airlines are opposed to any standards, saying studies have shown that seat sizes don’t affect how fast passengers get out of an airplane in a catastrophe. The federal government allows airlines to cram any number of seats into a cabin, in whatever size, as long as passengers can evacuate in an emergency within 90 seconds. It’s a standard that has been in place since the 1990s. Since 2011, the average seat pitch — the distance between the back of one seat and the back of the next — has dropped from 35 inches to 31 inches, according to a passenger rights group. Ultra-low-cost carriers, such as Spirit Airlines, have reduced the pitch on many seats to 28 inches.
Growing in size. Studies show the average American man over age 20 has gained about 15 pounds and his waist size has increased by more than 2 inches. The average American woman over age 20 has gained about 16 pounds and increased her waist size by more than 3 inches.
The FAA will continue to accept public comment until Nov. 1.
U.K. economy contracted in the second quarter. Gross domestic product fell 0.1% compared with the preceding quarter, the Office for National Statistics said Friday. The nation is projected to enter recession from the fourth quarter of this year, according to the Bank of England.
• Outside markets: The U.S. dollar index is higher in early U.S. trading. The yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note is fetching 2.868%. A dollar gauge headed for its deepest weekly drop since May. Bitcoin slipped to trade near the $24,000 level. Oil is headed for the biggest weekly gain in about four months on interruptions to supply and speculation fuel switching will buoy demand. U.S. crude was trading around $92.85 per barrel and Brent around $98.30 per barrel. Gold and silver futures are lower ahead of US market action, with gold around $1,801 per troy ounce and silver around $20.24 per troy ounce.
• First corn, soybean crop estimates highlight USDA August crop reports. USDA’s Crop Production and Supply & Demand Reports will be released at noon ET. The first survey-based corn and soybean estimates will be the highlight, with traders expecting declines from levels projected in July. Based on the average pre-report estimate from a Reuters survey, corn production is expected to come in at 14.392 billion bu. on a yield of 175.9 bu. per acre, while the soybean crop is expected at 4.481 billion bu. on a yield of 51.1 bu. per acre. USDA resurveyed planted acreage in the Dakotas and Minnesota, and the corn harvested acreage percentage could be lowered to reflect more acres chopped for silage. Any changes to wheat production this month are likely to be relatively minor, with the average estimate for all wheat at 1.791 billion bushels. Slightly higher old-crop ending stocks are expected for corn and soybeans. For 2022-23, traders anticipate smaller ending stocks for corn, while soybean carryover is expected to be unchanged and wheat ending stocks are likely to increase.
• Ag trade: South Korea purchased 60,000 MT of optional origin corn.
• The Rhine River — an artery for European industry — is set today to wither to a crucial level that could upend the transport of fuels, with the effects potentially rippling through the continent for months. The water level at Kaub — a key waypoint west of Frankfurt — is poised to breach 15.75 inches and continue dwindling in subsequent days. Chemicals giant BASF says some types of ships are no longer usable while others are sailing with reduced loads, and it may have to cut output as a result. The receding waters are sending shipping costs skyrocketing. Freight rates on one stretch of the Rhine have more than doubled in only a month. Bottom line: An economic slowdown in Germany is now more likely than ever as fresh troubles on the Rhine River pose a headache for shipping and heavy industry. Economists estimate the Rhine disruption could knock half a percentage point off Germany's growth this year, adding to the significant price pressures seen across many Western European countries.
• NWS weather: There is a Slight Risk of excessive rainfall over parts of the Northern/Central Rockies, Great Basin, and Southwest through Sunday morning... ...There is a Marginal Risk of excessive rainfall over parts of the Great Lakes and Gulf Coast/Southeast through Sunday morning. There is a Slight Risk of excessive rainfall over parts of the Northern/Central Rockies, Great Basin, and Southwest through Sunday morning... ...There is a Marginal Risk of excessive rainfall over parts of the Great Lakes and Gulf Coast/Southeast through Sunday morning.
Items in Pro Farmer's First Thing Today include:
• Weaker tone ahead of USDA’s August crop reports
• First wheat shipment leaves Ukrainian ports (details in next section)
• Russia lowers its wheat export tax
• China continues to auction soybean reserves
• Big weekly cattle sales again
• October hogs hold huge discounts
— Summary: Western countries pledged an additional $1.5 billion in military aid to Ukraine. Britain promised more long-range weapons. Meanwhile, Russia is installing cages inside a theater in Mariupol that could be used in the expected show trials of captured Ukrainian soldiers.
- Ukraine’s envoy to Washington cautioned the U.S. and its allies against fatigue over a war that’s consuming billions of dollars in security assistance. In an interview, Ambassador Oksana Markarova said it would be far costlier in the end to let Russian President Vladimir Putin go unchallenged and that if he isn’t stopped, he’ll attack more countries in Europe.
- Ukraine is calling on the Biden administration to sanction all Russian private banks to help end the Kremlin’s ability to wage war, according to Kyiv’s envoy to Washington. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s government wants the U.S. to add a couple of banks per week to its list of sanctioned financial institutions, according to Ambassador Oksana Markarova. She said she conveyed the request to the Treasury.
- An "alarming" situation is unfolding at a Russian-occupied nuclear power plant in southeastern Ukraine, according to the head of the United Nations' nuclear watchdog. Parts of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant — the largest nuclear plant in Europe — have been knocked out due to recent attacks, risking an "unacceptable" potential radiation leak, according to Mariano Grossi, the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). "IAEA experts believe that there is no immediate threat to nuclear safety," but "that could change at any moment," Grossi said. Russia and Ukraine have so far been unwilling to agree to an IAEA inspection of the plant and have accused each other of shelling the facility.
- Two more ships left Ukraine’s Black Sea ports on Friday, including the first wheat shipment under the new export deal, according to Turkey’s defense ministry. A total 14 ships have now departed from Ukraine over the past two weeks, following the deal with Russia to allow the resumption of grain exports from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports. Turkey’s defense ministry said on Thursday four ships that were inspected by the Joint Coordination Center team in Istanbul arrived in Ukraine and were being loaded, though no departure date was given.
- The waterways vital to European commerce are drying up under scorching temperatures, as we previously noted. Water levels at one key chokepoint of the Rhine in Germany were roughly half their normal level this week, and they’re forecast to drop even more, while the Danube is receding in Eastern Europe, impeding a key Ukrainian grain route.
- Russia now controls at least $12.4 trillion worth of Ukraine's energy, metal, and mineral deposits. According to an analysis by the Washington Post and SecDev, Moscow commands a massive volume of the smaller nation's resources. If the Kremlin succeeds in annexing the Ukrainian land seized during the invasion, Kyiv would permanently lose almost two-thirds of its key deposits.
- McDonald’s said it plans to start a phased reopening of some of its restaurants in Kyiv and western Ukraine as the war continues. This follows other Western brands that unlocked their doors earlier this month, like KFC and Pizza Hut owner Yum! Brands. To restart its 109 locations across the country, McDonald's is working with suppliers to get products to restaurants, while launching stronger safety protocols as the war still rages in Ukraine's east. McDonald's has continued to pay its more than 10,000 employees in the country throughout the crisis, and established an employee relief fund several months ago.
— House to vote on IRA/reconciliation measure. The House prepares to take up the Inflation Reduction Act or a final vote later this afternoon (first votes are expected at 10 a.m. ET). House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), acknowledging that the bill isn’t everything Dems wanted: “I’ve always said a half loaf is better than no loaf. You come back and get the other half if we can have a successful election in November and get the numbers we need.” Expected passage in the House will send the bill to President Biden for his signature. Link to ag-related provisions in the reconciliation package.
No amendments are expected. None of the 83 amendment proposals submitted by Republicans were made in order for floor consideration. Any changes made by the House would require the bill to return to the Senate.
No House Republican is expected to vote for the Democrat-authored measure. “If the Green New Deal and corporate welfare had a baby, it would look like this,” House Ways and Means ranking member Kevin Brady (R-Texas) said during Wednesday’s Rules Committee meeting. Republicans have pointed to a study from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School projecting that the “Inflation Reduction Act” would actually “slightly increase inflation until 2024” and then only barely nudge it down afterward.
The Senate is on recess until Sept. 6. The chamber will briefly convene for a pro forma session (9 am) to fulfill its constitutional obligation of meeting once every three days. No legislative business will be conducted.
— President Biden announced two new judicial nominees, bringing his number of announced judicial picks to 134. Of those nominees, 76 have been confirmed so far. Biden also unveiled his appointment of Dr. Monica Bertagnolli as the director of the National Cancer Institute. Currently a professor of surgery at Harvard Medical School, she will be the NCI’s first female leader.
— American officials have considered stockpiling arms in Taiwan out of concern that it might be tough to supply the island in the event of a Chinese military blockade.
— China’s deflating property bubble is imperiling the world’s second-largest economy with effects that could ripple for years, the Wall Street Journal reports (link). Home prices are dropping in many cities after a long period of increases, data from Chinese real-estate developers and official statistics show. Sales of apartments nationwide by the country’s largest developers have slumped annually for 13 consecutive months, according to industry-data provider China Real Estate Information Corp. And millions of “presold” apartments that buyers have paid for remain unfinished, leading some purchasers to threaten to withhold mortgage payments. Home buyers could refuse to pay back up to $370 billion in home loans if their apartments aren’t finished, analysts estimate. Most Chinese banks, they say, should be able to absorb the losses, making a financial crisis unlikely.
Bank of America research analysts noted in a report that approximately 9% of the housing floor space that was presold in 2020 and 2021 risks not being completed on schedule because of developers’ financial troubles, affecting roughly 2.4 million households. “Such incidents, if left unchecked and spread out, could dampen market confidence, hit property sales and investment, weigh on economic growth, and cause social instability,” the analysts wrote.
— China lowers 2021-22 soy import estimate. China’s ag ministry cut its estimate for 2021-22 (Oct.-Sept.) soybean imports to 91.0 MMT, down 2 MMT from the previous month’s forecast, as heavy hog industry losses reduced demand for soymeal. Soybean imports are now forecast to fall 8.8% from 2020-21. The ag ministry kept its 2022-23 soybean import forecast at 95.2 MMT, which would be a 4.6% rise from this year. Estimates to corn output, imports and consumption were also unchanged, however, recent low temperatures and excessive rainfall in the northeast, might impact corn production in some areas, the ministry said.
ENERGY & CLIMATE CHANGE
— The global search for lithium to support the production of electric-vehicle batteries is hitting turmoil in South America. Companies looking to tap into a region with more than half of the world’s known deposits of the metal are running into a series of setbacks, the Wall Street Journal reports (link), highlighting the difficulties that automobile and battery makers face in trying to build new supply chains with scarce raw materials. A Chilean court recently threw out a government contract allowing Chinese EV giant BYD to mine lithium there, for instance, saying the government failed to consult with indigenous people first. The site is in the so-called Lithium Triangle, which overlaps parts of Chile, Bolivia and Argentina. Production has lagged as leftist governments have angled for greater control, as well as from environmental concerns and activism by local Andean communities who fear being left out while outsiders get rich.
LIVESTOCK, FOOD & BEVERAGE INDUSTRY
— Court delays enforcement of Mass. law banning sale of pork from animals not housed according to certain standards. A U.S. federal court judge for the District of Massachusetts on Thursday signed a court order approving an agreement to delay enforcement of a state law that would have banned the sale of pork that comes from animals not housed according to the state's prescriptive housing standards. A coalition led by the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC), with the National Restaurant Association, and several New England restaurant and hospitality associations filed suit seeking to stop the law’s impeding implementation. The suit also asks the court to find the law unconstitutional.
NPPC comments: “This is a significant outcome as NPPC continues to push to preserve the rights of America’s pig farmers to raise hogs in the way that is best for their animals and maintains a reliable supply of pork for consumers,” said Terry Wolters, NPPC president and owner of Stoney Creek Farms in Pipestone, Minnesota. “The impact of Question 3 would have been particularly harmful to those in surrounding New England states who did not have a vote in the 2016 Massachusetts referendum, nor any notice of the dramatic steps that activists had taken trying to force these harmful initiatives on voters in other states.”
Details: The state law, known as Question 3 (Q3), was a 2016 Massachusetts ballot initiative set to go into effect on Aug. 15, 2022. Q3 is similar to California’s Proposition 12, which is currently being reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court and would ban any uncooked whole pork meat sold in the state that does not meet specific sow housing requirements, regardless of where it was produced. Going further than Prop 12, the Massachusetts law would not allow the transshipment of whole pork through the state jeopardizing an estimated $2 billion worth of pork that moves into neighboring New England states.
Earlier this week, the office of Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healy and the coalition came to a “commonsense agreement” that the Q3 rule prohibiting sales of non-compliant pork should be put on hold at least until 30 days after the U.S. Supreme Court issues a ruling in the lawsuit brought by NPPC and American Farm Bureau Federation to Proposition 12. This agreement is limited to only the pork sales provision of Q3, and producers located in Massachusetts are still required to comply with the in-state housing standards.
— OMB receives food traceability final rule. FDA’s final traceability rule was sent on Aug. 8 to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). FDA intends to meet a consent decree deadline under which the agency committed to publish the rule by Nov. 7. The rule sets traceability requirements under the Food Safety and Modernization Act (FSMA) and establishes new recordkeeping requirements for foods FDA designates as “high risk” under its Food Traceability List. It mandates companies capture Key Data Elements throughout the food supply chain. Groups like the National Grocers Association (NGA) argue it adds new and unneeded costs into the supply chain. OMB can take up to 90 days to review rules that agencies send forward.
— Bird flu in California. Highly pathogenic avian influenza was confirmed in a backyard flock of birds in Sacramento County, making California the 39th state where the viral disease has been discovered since early February. Link for details.
- Global Covid-19 cases at 588,514,324 with 6,430,766 deaths.
- U.S. case count is at 92,719,699 with 1,036,325 deaths.
- Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center says there have been 606,162,842 doses administered, 223,457,170 have been fully vaccinated, or 67.82% of the U.S. population.
— CDC says Covid is less of a threat. In new Covid guidelines released yesterday, the public health agency said that in most settings, adults and children do not need to quarantine after getting exposed to Covid, meaning that students can remain in classrooms even if other classmates test positive. The reason for relaxing the rules? Because of virus-fighting tools and population immunity, Covid now presents a lower risk of hospitalization and death than in the early days of the pandemic, the CDC said.
"We're in a stronger place today as a nation, with more tools —like vaccination, boosters, and treatments — to protect ourselves, and our communities, from severe illness from Covid-19," said Dr. Greta Massetti, chief of the field epidemiology and prevention branch at the CDC. "This guidance acknowledges that the pandemic is not over, but also helps us move to a point where Covid-19 no longer severely disrupts our daily lives."
POLITICS & ELECTIONS
— Whose baggage will weigh heaviest this fall? That’s the question veteran election watcher Charlie Cook of the Cook Political Report with Amy Walter tries to answer. His response: “My own hunch is that Republicans will still take the House, but not by the margin they had hoped. In the Senate, look for another photo finish, maybe on Nov. 8 but maybe even in a Dec. 6 runoff in Georgia.” Meanwhile, the firm’s Amy Walter notes: "To me, the most fascinating disconnect right now is among independent voters who give President Biden low marks, but are open to supporting Democratic candidates for Congress. Democratic hopes of keeping the Senate and keeping down their losses in the House depend on running ahead of Biden among this critical demographic."
— Federal student loan repayment announcement coming. With less than three weeks to go until the federal student loan repayment pause expires, millions of borrowers are waiting to hear whether President Joe Biden will extend the current payment moratorium or possibly forgive any of their debts. Borrower balances have effectively been frozen since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, with no payments required on most federal student loans since March 2020. Democratic lawmakers and advocates have been calling on Biden to broadly cancel up to $50,000 in student loan debt per borrower, but the President has said he would not consider that number. Along with potentially extending the pause, the White House has suggested Biden is considering canceling $10,000 per borrower, excluding those who earn more than $125,000 a year. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Biden will have something to announce "before August 31."
— House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will swear in Rep.-elect Brad Finstad (R-Minn.), who won a special election this week. Later, she will hold her weekly press conference.
OTHER ITEMS OF NOTE
— U.S. attorney general moves to unseal the Trump warrant. Merrick Garland, the U.S. attorney general, moved to unseal the warrant authorizing the FBI search for classified documents at Mar-a-Lago, Donald Trump’s residence in Florida. Garland said he personally approved the decision to seek the warrant. Garland said he decided to go public to serve the “public interest.” A New York Times report shows the former president was subpoenaed months before the FBI executed the search.
Meanwhile, Trump said late yesterday he supported the “immediate release” of documents related to the FBI’s search of his Mar-a-Lago property, including the warrant and a receipt of items — though not the more detailed accompanying affidavit — that Garland had called for earlier. Trump’s announcement came shortly after the Washington Post reported (link) that one category of documents the FBI was looking for related to nuclear weapons. It wasn’t clear if those documents were about U.S. weapons or weapons that belonged to another country, and if they were among the documents agents seized. The New York Times added (link) that the documents Trump kept “related to some of the most highly classified programs run by the United States.” Trump’s lawyers also have a copy of the warrant, as well as a list of items taken in the search, but they have not released either document.
What led to the search/raid. According to the Wall Street Journal (link), the FBI learned this summer from “someone familiar with the stored papers” that Trump still had other classified documents at Mar-a-Lago, a revelation that likely precipitated the raid this week
— The WHO warned people to not blame monkeys for monkeypox after a report that animals were harmed in Brazil amid fear of transmission.
— Iran nuclear deal: European Union diplomats trying to break a deadlock in talks have proposed a significant new concession to Tehran aimed at speedily ending a U.N. investigation into the Islamic Republic’s past atomic activities.
— Cotton AWP moves lower. The Adjusted World Price (AWP) for cotton is at 88.15 cents per pound, effective today (Aug. 12), down from 89.44 cents per pound the prior week and the second straight week the AWP has been back under $1 per pound. Meanwhile, USDA announced that Special Import Quota #17 will be established Aug. 18 to allow the import of 58,062 running bales of upland cotton, applying to supplies purchased no later than Nov. 15 and entered into the U.S. not later than Feb. 13.