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The CME Spot Markets Stood Strong Once Again This Week

The spot markets have been buoyed by robust near-term fundamentals. However, dairy futures were far from exuberant this week and some new clouds have moved onto the horizon.

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The stock market suffered its worst losses of the year on Monday but the U.S. dairy markets remain firmly supported as milk tightens. On Monday, USDA will publish its much-anticipated Acreage and Crop Production reports. Next week could be volatile.

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Although the bulls did not assert themselves this week, the bears are not in charge. Aside from the break from the extreme heat, all the factors that propelled the markets to their recent peak remain in play.

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Dairy producers would surely prefer the energy of the early-stage rally to today’s more plodding progress. The plateau is a sign of healthy markets at work.

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Almost all products rallied at the Global Dairy Trade (GDT) auction on Tuesday. However, in Europe dairy product prices continue to slip. Heat is also taking a noticeable toll on milk yields and components in much of the United States.

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After some late-June fireworks, the dairy markets fizzled in the first two weeks of July. The mercury has climbed, the storms have abated, and the grain markets have climbed. Farmers were initially relieved to have a break from the spring deluge, but now – with the exception of those in parts of Nebraska – they are praying for rain.

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There is no surplus of cheap milk in the traditional cheese states, which has likely slowed production of commodity Cheddar. It’s possible that European vendors don’t have enough cheese in inventory to satisfy foreign demand. If that’s the case, the bulls might take up residence in the dairy pits for a while.

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The cheese markets are heating up, and this time barrels are not left out in the cold. The USDA Cold Storage report reveals the largest April-to-May drawdown on record. Despite lower production in the Midwest and Northeast, milk seems to be widely available. Cheap spot milk has encouraged cheese processors to top up their vats.

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Buyers doused a little lighter fluid on the barrel market, helping to narrow the still-wide deficit to block prices. They still have a lot of ground to make up. Strong volume at these higher prices suggests cheese demand is firm. The dairy market recovery could continue for a while.

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U.S. dairy product exports fell well short of the record-high volumes set in April 2018. Rising prices, the strong dollar, and increasingly acrimonious trade relationships combined to stifle foreign buyers’ appetite for dairy products made in America. Still, year-to-date exports are the third-highest ever. For dairy producers, feed quality and availability may be a bigger issue, especially for forage.

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President Trump announced that the U.S. will impose a 5% tariff on all Mexican imports beginning June 10. Even if Mexico does not retaliate with a tariff on dairy products there are important consequences for the U.S. dairy industry. For now, however, global demand seems strong.

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