Analysts were tracking the behavior of American consumers this week for signs of an accelerating economy.
They may have found some.
Consumer spending jumped by a strong eight-tenths of a percent in August, thanks in part to the latest tax cuts. And the nation's unemployment rate held steady in September as businesses added to payrolls for the first time in eight months. In addition, construction spending climbed to its highest level since the beginning of the year.
In farm country, the focus is on the field, where harvests old and new help dictate financial well-being.
Estimated corn stocks were placed at just under 1.1 billion bushels, the lowest total since 1997. Soybean carryover stands at 169 million bushels. Wheat numbers were set at just over two-billion bushels, the second lowest total in six years.
Traders now are waiting for the October 10th release of USDA's next crop report. For the most part, analysts are expecting crop production numbers in the report to be higher than the government's last estimates. If so, that should put more emphasis on export demand to sustain any long-term price rallies.
And, if the forecast for demand in that report remains unchanged, analysts expect the U.S. can absorb a corn crop in the neighborhood of 9.75 to 10 billion bushels without dramatically impacting ending stocks a year from now.
Soybeans remain the most sensitive to tight supply. Indeed, a shorter than expected new crop combined with growing global demand could push the January '04 futures contract as high as $7.40 a bushel. On the flip side, volatility remains high and the importance of a larger South American crop to sustain supply has never been greater.
In wheat, June through August consumption was the strongest in three years and U.S. stocks are sufficient to accommodate even larger demand. Forecasts call for the December Chicago futures contract to challenge the $3.80 level.