Block and barrel cheese prices have been resilient

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Editor’s note: This market commentary is provided by the Dairy Division at FCStone/Downes-O'Neill in Chicago, Ill.

While the dairy complex was generally weaker Thursday, Class III futures consolidated amid lighter volume and finished modestly higher. While producer selling is light, commercial buy interest appears to be underpinning the market through the first half of 2012. Overall, the market was higher because of another good showing of support during the CME spot cheese trade, firm dry whey futures and an announcement of a reduction in dairy import tariffs imposed back in October 2010 from Mexico.

In a statement released yesterday, the U.S. Dairy Export Council reported, “On July 6, the United States and Mexico signed agreements that will end the long-standing dispute over cross-border trucking that caused Mexico to implement retaliatory tariffs on $2.4 billion of U.S. products, including a number of cheeses. Mexico will cut in half the retaliatory tariffs on all U.S. goods starting tomorrow. The remaining 50 percent will be suspended within five business days from when the first Mexican carrier receives authorization under the new program. Sources expect that to happen in August.”

There is often more than meets the eye when it comes to political negotiations and business, but we suspect that this announcement ought to provide some short-term support to deferred futures prices. At the end of the day, however, the trade will turn its focus back to the spot market for direction. 

While there is no arguing both block and barrels prices have been resilient so far this week, there is also no arguing that cheese is shaking finally shaking loose at these levels. Ten loads of block cheese traded between unchanged and .50 cent lower yesterday and finished back at unchanged.  That makes 17 loads of block cheese that have traded thus far this week — the most since the final week of April where 19 loads of blocks were traded. Not to be outdone, the barrel market rose a 0.25 cent on one trade.

Although cash price support is present this week, we continue to expect that spot prices are vulnerable to more downside pressure from these levels. Manufacturers are pulling in the reins on cheese production at these prices, and we are hearing of $2.00 and $3.00/cwt discounts on milk in the western U.S. Add to that a general weakness in Class IV products, and the argument for Class III strength over the next few weeks is waning.

This morning, we look for Class III to open slightly higher, for spot to be steady to lower and for futures to close lower.  

The grain markets got on with their rally again today with corn, soybeans and wheat all trading firm throughout the day. While the rally looks to some to be nothing more than a bear bounce, there is no question the buy-side hedgers appear to be taking advantage of the USDA’s price-moving gift. 

Chinese corn buyers made news again Thursday when the USDA reported that China bought 540,000 tons since Wednesday morning, and the expectations of China importing 8 to 10 million tons of corn during the next U.S. crop year is looking more plausible. While we suggest that feed buyers hold on securing prices for the new crop, it is advisable to own more old-crop corn.

News made its way around the market that the Senate has agreed to end the ethanol blender tax credit, as well as the import tariff effective at the end of the month. Obviously, the market shook this news off rather quickly though this does appear to be a very real run at enacting this into law — not the window-dressing of a few weeks ago. It seems unlikely that despite the removal of the import tariff that Brazil would be able to import much ethanol, as they are experiencing a shortage of both ethanol and sugar for production.

Goldman Sachs continues to be bullish on most commodities, expecting further increases in commodity returns up into 2012 thanks to widespread demand growth. They particularly like November 2011 soybeans, reiterating their long position in the key new crop contract due to further tightening stocks.

We look for corn to open 4 to 7 cents higher and soybeans to open steady to 3 higher.

Daily CME spot market prices:

Block cheese: $2.11 (unchanged)

Barrel cheese: $2.1025 (up 0.25 cent)

Butter: $2.035 (down 0.5 cent)  

Grade A NFDM: $1.625 (unchanged)     

These data and comments are provided for information purposes only and are not intended to be used for specific trading strategies. Commodity trading is risky and FCStone Group, Inc., International Assets Holding Corporation, and their affiliates assume no liability for the use of any information contained herein. Although all information is believed to be reliable, we cannot guarantee its accuracy and completeness. Past financial results are not necessarily indicative of future performance. Any examples given are strictly hypothetical and no representation is being made that any person will or is likely to achieve profits or losses similar to those examples. References to and discussions of exchange traded products are made solely on behalf of FCStone, LLC. References to and discussions of OTC products are made solely on behalf of INTL Hanley, LLC, and OTC products are only available to eligible counterparties.


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