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Paragon Commentary

Futures File: Eggs & Ham Diverge

Apr 18, 2019

Easter Outlook: Cheap Eggs, Pricey Ham

As Americans prepare for the Easter holiday, they may have a hard time finding bargain hams due to the ongoing run up in pork prices.

Hogs are nearing a five-year high as the African Swine Fever epidemic continues to ravage Chinese hog herds. Although the disease does not affect humans, it is incurable in pigs and spreads easily, which is threatening pork production in China, where over half of the world’s hogs live. China is expected to lose up to a quarter of its pork supply, which could force the Chinese to buy massive amounts of foreign pork, especially from the United States, pulling U.S. prices higher.

Meanwhile, U.S. egg prices are cheap, with U.S. wholesale eggs under 80 cents per dozen recently. Prices are down sharply from last Easter, when they pushed over $2.50 ahead of the holiday. Abundant supply and cheap chicken feed due to low-cost corn and soybeans have helped keep eggs affordable this year.

For would-be bunnies, the most important news is that cocoa prices are still relatively inexpensive, keeping chocolate treats affordable this year. Cocoa futures fetched $2380 per metric ton on Thursday’s market close, well below the ten-year average price near $3000 per ton.

Prices have been rising in recent weeks as supply concerns are on the rise. Most of the world’s cocoa comes from the West African nations Ghana and Ivory Coast, where dry weather is threatening the crop. Additionally, strong demand from China and Europe could boost cocoa going forward, making it a market to watch.


Gasoline Supercharged

For drivers hitting the road this weekend, prices at the pump may be a shock. Gasoline prices are continuing to spark higher, pushing to a six-month high on Thursday.

This year, gasoline futures have gained 70 cents per gallon, trading for $2.07 per gallon for the wholesale futures.

U.S. gasoline stockpiles have been dropping sharply in recent weeks as U.S. refineries are shutting down for maintenance as they prepare to make summer blend gasoline. Cold winter temperatures necessitate a different fuel than hot summer months, forcing refineries to close twice a year as they retool their production process. Summer gasoline is more fuel efficient and burns cleaner, but the annual shutdowns often create a short-term spike in prices as supplies dwindle, frustrating drivers.

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