October 31, 2008
Somehow, some way, 700 became the number the month of October revolved around.
The stage was set Sept. 29 when the Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged 777 points after Congress failed to pass the White House’s bank bailout plan earlier that day.
Chastened by the break, the massive, $700 billion deal then cleared Congress Oct. 3.
Less than a week later, however, on Oct. 9, the Dow nosedived another 700 points. Actually the break was but 679 points, a puddle compared to the ocean of losses – more than 2,250 points – the index lost those first days of the month.
Then, in an almost certain sign of the coming apocalypse, the 700-year-old former chairman of the Federal Reserve, Alan Greenspan, admitted Oct. 23 he had made a mistake when he trusted financial markets to regulate themselves out of “self interest.” When Wall Street didn’t (well, duh), he said, he fell into a “state of shocked disbelief.”
Greenspan, actually only 242 years old (OK, 82), isn’t the only resident of that booming state. Farmers and ranchers have been moving there in droves since mid-summer when their largely unregulated markets peaked, then popped, then imploded.
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In fact, the decrepit Dow ain’t got nothin’ on the busted Board. Since their summer highs to – hmm, their same day? – Oct. 24 lows, new crop corn, soybean and wheat futures have, respectively, lost 53, 46 and 43 percent of their value.
By Oct. 28, that was a head-cracking $4.16 per bushel drop for Dec. corn. On paper, that means about $51 billion in value of 2008’s estimated 12.2 billion bu. crop simply vanished. The same coulda’-been math for beans shows $22.25 billion evaporated between the July 3 contract high of $16.10 for Nov. futures and Oct. 24’s low of $8.63.
Much of mid-October’s corn and soybean decline is attributable to folks at the U.S. Department of Agriculture who, oops, got some of the key numbers in the Oct. 10 crop report wrong. Because USDA mistakenly used “discrepancies in a Farm Service Agency database,” an unprecedented, corrected report was issued Oct. 28.
The two intervening weeks, however, were costly. In the futures markets, Dec. corn dropped 53-cents per bu., or 12 percent, and Nov. soybeans fell 87-cents per bu., or nine percent.
After releasing the new, now supposedly accurate numbers Oct. 28, Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer breezily noted that the first-ever monthly do-over for a USDA crop estimate wasn’t “a blow to the credibility of the (report.)”
Swell; that should make everyone who got cracked for an additional 50- to 80-cents per bushel in the corn and bean market those two weeks feel better, eh?
Moreover, the secretary is wrong. Until USDA rebuilds it credibility, most traders will discount – sell – futures markets prior to report days simply because the numbers cannot be trusted. The first test will come prior to Monday, Nov. 10’s updated crop estimate.
Despite its dismal beginning and ugly middle, October is attempting to enter November on a better note. On Oct. 28, the Dow soared 890 points, or 11 percent. (Of course, the only other time it’s climbed that far in one day since World War II was, eerily, just two weeks prior, Oct. 13.)
Grain futures were climbing, too. Since hitting contract bottoms Oct. 24, Dec. corn has rallied 50-cents per bu. in but three trading days, soybeans 75-cents and hard red winter wheat nearly 80-cents.
What’s going on?
Commodity chart watchers will mumble something about a bear pennant breakout; fundamental traders will claim the November seasonal is beginning to kick in.
A more likely explanation is the market simply exhausted itself in October, a month that seemed 700 days long this year.
© 2008 ag comm
Write to Alan Guebert at agcomm, 21673 Lago Dr., Delavan, IL 61734, or by email at email@example.com