Financial markets in limbo

Colleen Kottke
Wisconsin State Farmer
Alex Breitinger

Investors are on edge with a new word being mentioned anew: recession.

Currently, the U.S. economy continues to grow, but the pace has slowed down, leading some to worry it could reverse course in the coming months.

As U.S. growth is slowing, other major economies are showing trouble; Germany’s growth has fallen to a standstill 0.1%, while Great Britain’s output is shrinking due to Brexit concerns. Meanwhile, China, which has been the economic driver of global growth during the last 20 years, is showing signs of slowdowns too as the U.S.-China trade war inflicts damage on the Chinese.

U.S. policymakers and politicians are seeing these threats as well and have tried to get ahead of the trouble. The U.S. Federal Reserve already lowered interest rates once, which could help bolster U.S. consumer spending. This week, President Trump floated the idea of lowering taxes again to stimulate the economy, only to reverse course later, “We don’t need it. We have a strong economy.”

After major stock market selloffs earlier this month, equities have recovered half of their losses and were stable this week, a sign that traders are nervous but not panicked. Meanwhile, gold stands near a six-year high at $1,500 per ounce but has stopped making rapid gains.

In the coming weeks, markets will watch for more economic indicators, developments in the trade war with China, or new policies out of Washington, D.C. that could help shed more light on the future.

Meat Prices Diverge: As you prepare for a Labor Day cookout, don’t be surprised if you see pork on sale at the grocery store while beef appears pricey.

Hog prices are near a five-month low, trading Friday near 62 cents per pound. U.S. hog and pork inventories are ample, being driven higher by poor U.S. pork exports. During trade disputes with China and Mexico, foreign demand from two of our major buyers faltered, leading to a backup of pork. A new round of tariffs by China announced Friday suggests that trade won’t increase soon.

Meanwhile, U.S. beef prices are near a two-year high, driven higher after a major beef processing plant in Kansas went offline last week due to a fire. The loss of that facility caused a selloff in live cattle prices, which means that the remaining slaughterhouses are making huge profits as they buy cheap cattle and convert them to high-value beef.

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