Drama at the border shakes market

Alex Breitinger
Alex Breitinger

Last week, President Trump announced that he was going to implement tariffs against Mexican goods “until Mexico substantially stops the illegal inflow of aliens.”

The proposed tariff is expected to start as a 5% tax on June 10 and would escalate by 5% each month until they reached 25%.

Economists expect that the tariffs will decrease trade between the two nations, slowing both economies, while Americans will likely face higher prices for goods imported from Mexico, including trucks, tractors, beer, and fresh produce.

U.S. stock markets plunged on this announcement, with the Dow futures contract falling to a four-month low the morning after the announcement.

U.S. exporters who sell to Mexico could be exposed if Mexico counters with tariffs of their own. During the last trade dispute with Mexico, U.S. agricultural products were targeted by Mexican counter tariffs. Fears of a repeat attack on U.S. food exports helped to accelerate a selloff in hog futures this week, touching a three-month low on Friday under 83 cents per pound.

Corn Careens Higher: Corn prices popped sky high this week, nearing a one-year high at $4.38 per bushel. Ongoing wet weather continues to plague Midwestern farmers, and many will be unable to plant their corn crop on time. Only 58% of the crop had been planted as of last weekend, the slowest pace on record. Current estimates are that nearly 10% of this year’s expected crop could go unplanted, and much of the remaining late-planted or waterlogged corn could suffer from lower yields.

As a result, market watchers fear that corn supplies could be extremely tight in the U.S. this fall, potentially the lowest level in a generation.

Adding fuel to the rally was a recent announcement by the Trump administration that it was going to allow higher ethanol blends to be used year-round. Most U.S. ethanol is made from corn and is then blended into gasoline; ethanol demand has exploded during the last 20 years and now accounts for nearly 40% of all U.S. corn use, a figure that could rise after the new rule is implemented.

Alex Breitinger is a commodity futures broker with Paragon Investments in Silver Lake, Kan.