Iowa Public Television


Fires Rage; Markets Mixed

posted on August 17, 2001

Hello, I'm Mark Pearson. Despite the fervent near evangelical insistence from Wall Street that the bull market will return, the numbers say otherwise.

Retail sales slumping. Industrial production is off and large manufacturers like Ford have announced layoffs. Moreover, consumer inflation last month recorded the biggest drop in nearly 15 years – signaling the economy is hardly overheated.

There is speculation that these numbers will encourage the fed to lower interest rates for the 7th time this year. But, the dollar has weakened against major currencies. That may discourage the fed from rolling back rates. American farmers would like to see a weaker dollar. It would make commodities more competitive in the export market. But for many Rural Americans, this week survival was a more pressing fundamental than exchange rates.


With resources stretched to the limit, officials have asked the military for help in combating nearly a thousand fires raging across the Western U.S.

Most of the fires are in the Great Basin in Nevada, Idaho and eastern Oregon. But officials with the National Interagency Fire Center are coordinating efforts in 11 different states.

To date, more than 500-thousand acres have been consumed by the fires, which have been battled by more than 21-thousand firefighters. Lightning strikes in remote timbered areas are blamed for most of the fires.

Meanwhile, matters are less incendiary in the markets. Grain and oilseed prices were mixed this week, moving higher early before midweek rains dampened enthusiasm in the pits.

Long-term prospects seem brighter. Export demand, especially from Asia, remains strong and large price-suppressing supplies continue to dwindle.

At home, the latest USDA crop progress report shows 57 percent of the nation's corn crop in good to excellent condition ... 54 percent of the soybean crop in good to excellent shape ... and just 48 percent of the cotton crop in good to excellent condition.

The winter wheat harvest is 95 percent complete, while the spring wheat harvest is 30 percent done.

Cooler and wetter weather in some key soybean producing areas caused market prices to slump on Thursday. Adding fuel to the bullish sentiment was a New York Times report that researchers had found an unidentified gene fragment in Monsanto's popular round-up ready soybeans. G-M-O naysayers insist the discovery is more proof geneticists are just rolling environmental dice.

Even though much of the export market already refuses delivery of round-up ready beans, the trade sold beans in the belief demand the news wouldn't push demand higher. By Friday prices were rebounding on longer-term supply/demand fundamentals. But expect to hear more about the genetic fragments.

Tags: agriculture crops fire markets news