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Alex Breitinger column: Cold and rain slows planting of grain

7:31 PM, Apr. 19, 2013  |  Comments
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Cool, wet weather across much of the Midwest is plaguing farmers who are unable to plant their corn crop into soggy, cold soil.

Some weather watchers fear that unfavorable weather could continue through early May, putting some farmers far behind schedule to plant this year's crop. Currently, most analysts believe that only 7 percent of the U.S. corn crop has been planted, compared to an average of 19 percent for this time of year.

Despite the problems that farmers are experiencing, corn prices have not responded, indicating that most traders are still optimistic that a huge crop will be planted on time. As of midday Friday, the value of this year's fall crop December corn was $5.46 per bushel.

Unusually cold weather across the Midwest has also supported natural gas prices, which continued rallying this week, climbing 20 cents (+4.7 percent) to $4.42 by Friday morning, the highest price in nearly two years.

Gold collapse sets mark

Gold prices continued crumbling this week, melting to the lowest level in more than two years. On Monday alone, prices fell $140 per ounce (-9.3 percent), the largest one-day drop since 1980.

The precious metal lost its luster as news reports broke Sunday night of a slowdown in the Chinese economy, which spurned more selling after the previous week's Cyprus-driven sell-off. The tragedy in Boston on Monday afternoon and ensuing uncertainty were also cited by some traders as accelerating a general sell-off in commodities which put additional pressure on the gold market, pushing prices as low as $1,321 on Tuesday.

By the end of the week, gold had stabilized near $1,400 per ounce, recovering almost half of its losses.

Crude oil, copper and the S&P 500 stock index futures also began the week with a tumble, but stabilized by week's end.

Cocoa up on supply fears

Cocoa prices gained this week as reports out of the Ivory Coast indicated that the upcoming harvest could be smaller than expected and slow to arrive in consuming markets in Europe and North America.

The African country produces more than a third of the world's cocoa, making supply shortages from that nation felt throughout the chocolate-loving world. As of midday Friday, cocoa for delivery in May was worth $2,331 per metric ton, up $70 (+3.1 percent) during the week.

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