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Walt and Alex Breitinger: Markets respond as jobs bounce back
Column | Futures File

Walt and Alex Breitinger: Markets respond as jobs bounce back

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Here's a look at futures prices on commodities that impact Southern Illinois and the rest of the Midwest.

Jobs and stocks bounce back

Markets were gleeful on Friday morning after a report showing 13.3% unemployment, the second-highest rate since the Great Depression. The reason for their optimism? Things didn’t get worse after April’s record-breaking 14.7% rate.

Investors had been fearing that May’s unemployment rate would rise to near 20%, and that another 8 million jobs were lost during the month. Instead, the economy bounced back, adding back 2.5 million jobs. While this barely puts a dent in the 22 million jobs lost during the coronavirus outbreak, reversing the losses was a welcome sign.

This news sent stock markets to their highest level since late February, when the disease outbreak was still seen as an isolated issue in the United States. Prices are now up nearly 50% from the lows that markets hit during mid-March, a sign of how drastically sentiment has changed.

Alongside stocks, commodities like crude oil and copper rallied to new highs, another sign of hope that the global economy will successfully weather the COVID-19 economic crisis. Crude for nearby delivery was approaching $40 per barrel midday Friday, for example, after trading at negative $40 during the famous storage debacle on April 20.

Hogs wallow

Hog prices were some of the hardest hit so far this year and are still dreadfully low. June lean hog futures traded Friday for 48 cents per pound, barely half of what they were at the beginning of the year.

Market-ready hog supply is far outpacing slaughterhouse demand, as nearly a quarter of U.S. meatpacking capacity is still offline due to coronavirus containment efforts.

Worse yet, major foreign buyers like Mexico have slowed their purchases, and a renewed trade war with China could exacerbate the glut of U.S. hogs.

Despite these concerns, China could also be the solution to low pork prices, as that nation is still suffering from an outbreak of African Swine Fever, which eviscerated its hog herds. Should China return to normal economic conditions and resume trade fully with the United States, pig farmers may see a record number of hogs heading to the world’s most populous nation in the coming year.

Walt and Alex Breitinger are commodity futures brokers in Valparaiso, Indiana, and the opinions here are solely the writers'. They can be reached at 800-411-3888 or This is not a solicitation of any order to buy or sell any market.


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