Futures File

November 20, 2015

Turkey Prices Trot Higher

The avian flu epidemic that shot egg prices sky high this year is having an impact on your Thanksgiving meal as well. Over 8 million turkeys died as a result of the epidemic, forcing farmers to sell smaller, younger birds to market this year. As a result, the gobblers at the grocery may be smaller than usual, while prices could be up by almost 20% compared to last year.

Another factor that could make Thanksgiving pricier was a wet summer in Illinois that cut pumpkin yields in half. Illinois produces nearly 90% of all US pumpkins, and a smaller supply has pushed prices higher, although retailers are not concerned about a shortage.

Even with these price jumps, at least the trip to grandmother’s house will be less expensive – gasoline prices are down nearly 70 cents per gallon compared to last year.


Oats Buck Higher

While corn, wheat, and soybean prices are languishing near the lowest price of the year due to large harvests, oats prices are surging. Since early October, oats gained nearly 40 cents per bushel, a 19% increase.

Oats are utilized widely throughout the US food industry, but the recent price gains are being attributed to increasing demand from the animal feed industry, which accounts for two-thirds of US oats consumption.

Often considered a “minor grain” compared to the other markets, oats are followed less by commodities traders, but an old adage, “corn follows oats,” has some corn farmers hoping for a surge in corn soon too.


Chilly Outlook for Natural Gas

Natural gas prices are on thin ice as inventories swell to record-high levels, with US inventories topping 4 trillion cubic feet for the first time in history. Natural gas inventories usually hit their apex in late October before the heating season kicks into full swing, but mild weather has led to ongoing inventory builds into November, adding to the surplus.

Thanks to the expansion of new drilling techniques over the last decade, US natural gas production has increased by a third, and demand can’t keep up.

On Friday, prices for natural gas delivered in December dropped to a new low price of $2.17 per million British thermal units, a fact that will warm consumers’ wallets throughout the coming winter.

For over 18 years, Walt taught his method of trading at Purdue University. His comments on the markets have been featured in USA Today and other national outlets.

Walt's weekly commentary has been published for nearly 25 years. Futures File, written on Fridays for Saturday publication, provides a brief summary of commodity futures market highlights for the week.