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OIL PRICES RISE AFTER DROP IN US INVENTORIES

Oil prices rose on Thursday after US data showed a surprise decline in inventories, suggesting that a global glut may be ending after moves by OPEC to cut production.

Benchmark Brent crude oil LCOc1 was up 70 cents a barrel at $56.54, recovering from a drop of 82 cents on Wednesday. US light crude CLc1 was 70 cents higher at $54.29 a barrel. Both benchmarks are near the top of relatively narrow $4 ranges that have contained trade so far this year, reflecting a period of low volatility since the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and other exporters agreed to cut output. OPEC and producers including Russia aim to reduce production by around 1.8 million barrels per day (bpd) in an attempt to drain an oversupply that has kept prices depressed for more than two years.

IRON ORE FUTURES IN CHINA PULLS BACK FROM RECORD HIGH

Iron ore futures in China fell more than 2 percent on Thursday, sliding further from a record high reached on Tuesday, amid doubts on the strength of the rally in the steelmaking raw material given plentiful stocks at Chinese ports.

Inventories of imported iron ore at major Chinese ports reached 127.55 million tons as of Feb. 17, the highest since at least 2004. The rally to the highest level since 2014 has occurred at the same time as stocks have been rising.

The analysts were referring to the surge in the price of spot iron ore to $94.86 a ton on Tuesday, the strongest since August 2014.

The spot benchmark dropped 0.6 percent to $94.30 on Wednesday. The rally in spot iron ore followed the upturn in Chinese futures this week, with the most-traded contract on the Dalian Commodity Exchange hitting a record high of 741.50 yuan ($107.85) a ton on Tuesday.

NATURAL GAS OUTLOOK THIS YEAR

Prompt-month gas prices have plummeted, down to the $2.60 mark from the mid-$3.90s it is recorded in late-December and the $3.20-3.45 range that persisted for so long after that.

Interestingly enough, in its February STEO, EIA has maintained its mid-$3.50s projection for average Henry Hub prices for 2017, compared to the January STEO. This is of note because winter increasingly appears unlikely to show up.

For comparisons sake, both the IMF and World Bank had already predicted $3 gas for this year, a forecast that now appears more likely. Gas prices in 2016, remember, were just $2.50, the lowest average since 1999, so it is still in a very low gas price environment historically speaking.

EIA reported a 114 Bcf storage withdrawal for the week of February 10, which was about 12 percent below expectations and nearly 30 percent below the five-year average.

 

US MILK PRODUCTION RISES BY 2.7PC IN JANUARY

January milk production in the 23 major milk producing States in the US rose by 2.7 percent when compared with January 2016.

It is said that the number of cows being milked in these 23 major states also increased in January of this year. Milk production in the 23 major states during January totaled 17 billion pounds, an increase of 2.7 percent from the corresponding month last year.

Experts published revised production figures for December milk production, at 16.8 billion pounds, meaning production was up 2.6 percent on December 2015. The December revision represented a decrease of 2 million pounds, or less than 0.1 percent from last month’s preliminary production estimate.

Meanwhile, the number of milk cows on farms in the 23 major states was 8.69m head last month, 67,000 head more than January 2016 and 5,000 head more than December 2016.

TEA RATES LIKELY TO RALLY

Tea prices are seen firm and likely to rally due to the shortfall in production. Production of tea is estimated to be on the shorter side for the first half of the year due to the drought-like conditions in major black tea producing countries like India, Kenya and Sri Lanka.

India is the leading producer of black tea in the world with 25 percent share of the total production. Interestingly, India consumes 75-80 percent of its own production.

The crop scenario for the next six months looks bleak due to drought-like conditions in most of the tea producing region. Kenya did well last year but from November the crop is seen lower and prices have gone up.

Sri Lanka’s tea output fell 15.3 percent in January due to adverse weather and poor application of fertilizers, adding that the island nation’s tea output hit a seven-year low in 2016,falling 11 percent in its third straight year of declining production.

AUSTRALIA WHEAT WILL STRUGGLE

Wheat prices will struggle for headway this year, National Australia Bank said, citing the potential test of an El Nino for Australian farmers, at risk of seeing a sharp drop in their next harvest.

The bank downplayed the potential for a revival in wheat prices left moribund by a series of strong harvests, the latest of which being the unprecedented 35.1m-tonne Australian crop.

Although there have been some modest downgrades to estimates for this year’s Black Sea harvests, following cold weather threats to autumn-planted crops, and US sowings have fallen to the lowest in more than a century it remain unlikely that dollar prices [of wheat] will rise significantly this year.

FIRST TET FOR DONALD TRUMP’S COAL PLEDGE

The owners of the Navajo Generating Station voted this month to keep the plant in Arizona open until the end of 2019, saying its decision was based on changing economics and sinking natural gas prices that have become a viable alternative to coal power.

However, the Navajo Nation said many people depended on the plant and nearby coal mine and have called on the Trump administration to step in and keep the plant open until 2044.

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