Hello, I'm Mark Pearson. Just in time for the busiest shopping days of the year, government and private reports this week suggested the housing slump, surging fuel costs and a slowing economy are forming a "not-so perfect storm" which threatens to curtail consumer spending.
**The Commerce Department reported construction of single-family homes in October skidded to their lowest level in 16 years.
**Meanwhile, the New York-based Conference Board reported its Index of Leading Indicators fell in October to a two-year low.
**Throw in crude oil prices, which flirted with $100 per barrel again this week, and you have a recipe for a sell off on Wall Street and as of Wednesday's close, the **Dow declined 360 points for the holiday-shortened week.
While the bulls were run out of U.S. equity markets, cattle of a different sort are about to stage a comeback.
After the 2003 confirmation of America's lone case of mad cow disease traced to an Alberta animal, the U.S. closed its borders to Canadian cattle. Nevertheless, the losses were devastating.
U.S. beef was banned in virtually all foreign countries. To date, the industry has recovered less than 60% of what was a $3.9 billion dollar export market... and many cattle producers still are wary of Canadian imports -- -- particularly now that the USDA will allow animals that some believe to be at risk of mad cow disease to cross the border.
After a four-year ban, Canadian shipments of cattle over 30 months of age will again be allowed into the U.S. despite criticism from some domestic cattle producers.
The Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund United Stock Growers of America, known as R-CALF USA, filed an emergency request in a South Dakota court seeking a temporary restraining order to stop the trade. R-CALF CEO Bill Bullard said, "Our industry is vulnerable to tremendous financial harm as a result of this rule" ... noting there is still a risk of a mad cow infected animal being imported.
However, not all beef industry groups agree the border opening for older cattle is wrong. A chief economist for the National Cattlemen's Beef Association said the U.S. needs to do what it asks of other trading partners. NCBA's Greg Dodd said, America's Asian trading partners have asked, "Why are you asking something of us that you're not willing to give to Canada? There's no answer to that."
A spokesperson for the Canadian Cattlemen's Association says his country's producers are unlikely to immediately begin shipping more cattle south. One of the main reasons is Canada now slaughters most of its own cattle. Also, the new U.S. rule allowing older cattle into the country requires the animals' birth dates be confirmed, and its unlikely many beef producers will have that information.