What is in this article?:
- Be prepared for commodity market corrections
- Major buyer of U.S. grains
• While commodity prices regularly rise and fall, they have trended upward in a way that suggests they've reached a plateau.
• Much of the price movement in commodities can be attributed to bullish export markets, weather-shortened supplies and the effect monetary policies have had on interest rates and investors.
• This higher level may be the new normal.
• Farmers should carefully consider any additional risk they might take in their operations and be prepared for market corrections.
Major buyer of U.S. grains
China is a major purchaser of U.S. grains, especially soybeans. While many nations were still reeling from the global recession, China recovered quickly and continued to import agricultural products. Concerns about inflation have since cooled China's economic expansion, Boehlje said.
Less obvious, but significant, influences on agricultural prices are actions the Federal Reserve has taken to strengthen the U.S. economy, Boehlje said. The Fed's moves to both keep a lid on interest rates and provide U.S. capital markets with dollars have made agriculture an attractive option for those with cash to invest.
Chairman Ben Bernanke on June 22 announced that the Fed would end its second round of Treasury bond purchases later in June. The $600 billion program, known as "quantitative easing," contributed to a loss in dollar value. The weaker dollar further boosted U.S. exports to those nations whose currency is worth more, Boehlje said.
Bernanke also said the Fed would leave the federal funds rate — a key interest rate used as a benchmark for business and consumer borrowing — near zero percent. The fed rate has been unchanged since December 2008.
The additional liquidity in capital markets from both rounds of quantitative easing means there is more money for investors to deploy. That creates complications, however, when interest rates are at or near zero percent, Boehlje said.
Investors "need to find some place to put those funds," he said. "And when you've got very low interest rates it's not particularly attractive to put those funds into financial instruments that have low rates of return. So you start looking at other places to invest those funds."
One attractive investment option for investors worried about possible inflation from an increased money supply and low interest rates is real goods, Boehlje said. Commodities, farmland and other real assets often are better hedges against inflation than financial assets, he said.
Although signs point to continued high commodity prices, Boehlje noted that markets can retreat at any time. He urged farmers to carefully consider any additional risk they might take in their operations and be prepared for market corrections.
"When you're on a higher plateau you also have the potential to fall a lot further when things don't go well," Boehlje said. "We need to acknowledge that we do have a lot more downside potential than we might have had