First Thing Today (VIP) -- March 28, 2014

March 28, 2014 01:37 AM


Good morning!

Weaker tone overnight... As of 6:30 a.m. CT, corn futures are trading steady to around 1 cent lower in most contracts, soybeans are fractionally to 2 cents lower in most contracts and wheat futures are 6 to 10 cents lower. The U.S. dollar index is modestly firmer this morning.

EPA’s McCarthy insists all viewpoints being looked at re: 2014 RFS… The final Renewable Fuel Standard levels for 2014 will reflect all the viewpoints expressed by opponents and proponents, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy told lawmakers at a hearing Thursday. Asked to address comments she made to the ethanol and biodiesel industry that the final plan from EPA would show they listened to that portion of the industry, McCarthy said the agency is "going to do our best to meet the requirements under the law, but we do need to continue to recognize that ethanol and the ethanol levels in the law, we are not able to see those absorbed in the market." Most observers are convinced we’ll see a slight uptick in the level initially proposed by EPA for corn-based ethanol, but a reduction is in the cards from the legislated mandate level for the corn-based fuel.

Troops at Ukraine border stoke fears... Russian troops massing near Ukraine are actively concealing their positions and establishing supply lines that could be used in a prolonged deployment, ratcheting up concerns that Moscow is preparing for another major incursion and not conducting exercises as it claims, U.S. officials said, according to the Wall Street Journal. Such an incursion could take place without warning because Russia has already deployed an array of military forces needed for such an operation, say officials briefed on the latest U.S. intelligence. Meanwhile, on Thursday the Obama administration announced more sanctions on Russia, while the U.S. Congress cleared legislation on the situation.

Ukraine cancels VAT refund for grain exports... As part of a broad austerity package required by the International Monetary Fund to secure international aid, Ukraine's government has canceled the value-added tax (VAT) refund on grain exports. Farmers are exempt from the VAT system and have a separate tax structure. Despite mounting tensions in the country, Ukraine continues to actively export grain. Through March 27, Ukraine had exported 26.9 MMT of grain for 2013-14, with 2.5 MMT shipped so far this month, according to data from the country's ag ministry.

Highly anticipated H&P Report out this afternoon... USDA's Quarterly Hogs & Pigs Report will be looked to for some answers as traders try to quantify impacts from porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDV). The average pre-report trade guesses peg All Hogs and Pigs at 94.5%, Kept for Breeding at 99.6%, Kept for Marketing at 94.0% and the December-February pig crop at 96.5% of year-ago levels. Revisions to past data may be more important than the March 1 inventory numbers.

China starts stockpiling pork to support hog prices... China has started buying frozen pork for state-owned reserves in an effort to stabilize hog prices, according to the National Development and Reform Commission. Chinese hog prices have declined for 14 consecutive weeks, dropping the hog:feed ratio below breakeven, which prompted the stockpiling.

Average grocery beef price nearly $5... The 15-cut average grocery price for all cuts of beef rose 7 cents this week to $4.99 per lb., according to a Wall Street Journal survey. That's up 60 cents from last year at this time. For comparison, the five-cut average pork price stands at $2.66 per lb. and the two-cut average chicken price is $1.94 per pound.

Pork prices drop, movement slows... The pork cutout value dropped $1.24 Thursday as sharp increases in picnics and hams were more than offset by sharper losses in other cuts. Despite the price drop, movement slowed to 255.64 loads. A drop in movement and price would typically signal the market is running out of steam, but with pork cheap compared to beef, traders will need much stronger proof of a top before they become concerned.

Overnight demand news... Exporters reported no tenders or purchases.


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