Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Wheat price up, Capital Press website down

Update: 3:14 p.m., Sept. 26: The Capital Press website appears to be back up and accessible again and we have resumed posting news updates to that site.

The Capital Press website, and those of our sister papers in Astoria and Pendleton, Ore., are down at this hour due to problems from our web severice provider. But I didn't want that to stop us from sharing news about a new record high price for wheat set today.

Here's the story from Associated Press:

Wheat prices climb to daily trading limit, set record, amid expectations of strong exports

AP Business Writer

NEW YORK (AP) — Wheat prices peaked Wednesday in advance of a government report expected to show robust export sales, with foreign demand for U.S. wheat intensifying as world stockpiles dwindle.

In other commodities markets, oil rebounded from early declines, industrial metals ended in a mixed range and gold declined.

The Agriculture Department reports weekly export sales on Thursday, and analysts expect the past week's reading to come in strong. World wheat supplies are heading for the lowest level in nearly three decades, according to USDA estimates, after major producing regions got too much rain this year or too little.

Dan Basse, president of AgResource Co., said a rush of late speculative buying ahead of Thursday's report helped drive prices to the 30-cent limit at the close of the Chicago Board of Trade and led the December contract to finish at an all-time high of $9.1725 a bushel. The exchange limits wheat price swings to 30 cents in either direction.

"The market is in a demand-rationing mode," said Basse.

Foreign demand for U.S. wheat has been strong. The USDA on Wednesday said Algeria bought 200,000 metric tons of hard, red winter wheat, raising the country's total orders for U.S. wheat this week to more than half a million metric tons.

On the supply side, the Ukraine government on Wednesday outlined quotas on grain exports from Nov. 1 that are expected to curtail sales after a drought damaged crops in the region. Also, Dow Jones Newswires cited a Russian government official as saying country is mulling a 10 percent wheat export duty due to tight supplies.

Soybean and corn futures also notched gains. Soybean prices climbed as traders eyed dry weather in Brazil, which has delayed soybean plantings there, said John Roach of Roach Ag. Marketing Ltd., in a note. With the U.S. soybean crop down from last year, the market is relying on Brazilian supply.

November soybeans added 17.75 cents to close at $9.9075 a bushel, while December corn rose 3.25 cents to close at $3.75 a bushel.

A round of late buying also appeared in the energy market to reverse oil's earlier decline, as bargain-hunting emerged. Earlier, prices had declined after the Energy Information Administration reported a surprising jump in crude oil supplies and larger-than-expected increases gasoline and distillate inventories.

U.S. crude oil inventories were up 1.8 million barrels last week; analysts had projected a 1.8 million barrel decline. Stockpiles of gasoline rose 600,000 barrels last week, while distillates rose 1.6 million barrels. Analysts polled by Dow Jones Newswires forecast increases of 200,000 barrels of gasoline and 1.1 million barrels of distillates.

Light, sweet crude for November rose 77 cents to settle at $80.30 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract traded as low as $78.44 a barrel.

October futures for gasoline fell 1.05 cents to $2.0274 gallon, while heating oil shed 0.13 cent to $2.1826 a gallon.

Meanwhile, industrial metals ended narrowly mixed Wednesday as investors weighed weaker-than-expected readings on the U.S. economy against the potential for future interest rate cuts.

The Federal Reserve last week lowered its benchmark federal funds rate for the first time in four years in an effort to stimulate growth.

Nickel and copper prices slipped slightly on the London Metal Exchange, while zinc and lead ended higher.

David Thurtell, metals analyst with BNP Paribas, said that "I think the market now is starting to price in further (interest rate) cuts."

December copper shed 1.5 cents to settle at $3.614 a pound on the Nymex.

Thurtell said he expects that if metals benefit from a future interest rate cut, it would be short-term. He expects the housing slump in the U.S. and credit market turmoil will seep through the broader economy, curbing growth as well as demand for metals.

Gold and silver prices also fell amid the initial declines in energy prices and a firmer U.S. dollar. December gold dropped $3.30 to $735.50 an ounce. Silver for December delivery lost 7.5 cents to close at $13.545 an ounce.

The dollar made a slight recovery versus the euro. The gap between the euro and greenback has widened in recent weeks as lower interest rates and poor economic data in the U.S. have dragged on the dollar.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press.

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