Against the backdrop of rational exuberance on the war front, the nation's financial community turned to its more stoic function of sorting out value in the markets that form the backbone of the U.S. economy. And the news from the business sector contained some slivers of hope. Retail sales in March jumped 2.1 percent, a sharp departure from a sales drop in February. Much of the increase was attributable to auto sales. There was also a sharp jump in producer inflation. But that report didn't discourage investors on the nation's stock markets. Traders see the inflation pop as a welcomed signal of economic expansion. Most are discounting the rise, attributing it to higher energy costs leading into the war.
There is hopeful news as well from some sectors of Rural America. Recent snowfalls are filling reservoirs in the west. And, harbors are reported to be busy handling shipments of an important agri-commodity.
USDA says the increase in exports has reduced soybean stockpiles this month to 3.9-million tons.
The trade news helped sustain a strong run in the soybean pits. Indeed, over the past three months, prices on the nearby soybean futures contract have risen sharply and now stand at contract highs.
The news for corn farmers was not as encouraging. U.S. exports of corn slipped and stockpiles grew slightly last month. USDA economists blamed the drop in exports on stiff competition from Brazil and Argentina. But they said there was hope the losses would be offset by increases in domestic use for the manufacture of sugars, starches and ethanol.