Hello, I'm Mark Pearson.
The greased pig that is the U.S. economy seems to give no clear indication of where it's headed. One week it's up, the next week it's down. The news this week provides a typical mixed bag.
Wholesale prices, after dropping for two straight months, jumped a half-percent in June. Retailers, in turn, reported modest gains for the month, but not good enough to verify a rebound in the economy. And for the 21st week in a row, jobless claims were above the 400,000 mark, a level associated with a sluggish job market.
In the country, the concerns are focused on traditional summertime fare, including the politics of trade.
After determining that imports of Canadian wheat might harm the U-S wheat industry, the United States International Trade Commission imposed temporary duties of 12 percent on durum and 10 percent on hard red spring wheat. Because of those tariffs, the Canadian Wheat Board is predicting a drop in revenues of U.S. sales by as much as $6-million when compared to last year. The C-W-B puts the blame squarely on the additional duties.
USDA numbers seem to support the Board's claim as only a meager 7.7 million bushels were imported during the first quarter of 2003. Last year, 26.6-million bushels had already passed over the border during the same period.
The current tariffs are just one more salvo in the trade battle that goes back to August of 2002. Those critical of the C-W-B claim it is a monopolistic marketing agent that sells its wheat below what it costs to produce it. Meanwhile, the board is accusing U-S wheat producers of using Canadian farmers as scapegoats for declining wheat acreage and production caused by global market factors.
The ITC is expected to rule if the tariffs will become permanent sometime in October.