Light Crude Oil
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November 7, 2014 (WSJ.com) by Susan Carey, Joseph B. White and Betsy Morris
Cheaper Oil Lifts Airlines, Other Industries
Drop in Crude Prices and Fuel Bills Is Welcomed-Up to a Point
Plunging oil prices are welcome news for U.S. airlines, auto makers, and even corn farmers, but the decline if it persists also carries risks for parts of corporate America.
Crude oil prices have dropped about 25% in just over four months, hitting a three-year low of $77.19 a barrel on Tuesday on the New York Mercantile Exchange. On Friday, they nudged up to $78.65.
The plunge is causing pain in a U.S. oil patch that has expanded substantially in recent years, and figures to hurt manufacturers that supply the energy sector. But the oil slump also is shrinking fuel bills for transportation companies and for consumers, who are likely to spend at least some of the savings, giving a boost to the economy.
Perhaps the biggest direct beneficiary is the airline industry. Fuel is its No. 1 expense, costing U.S. carriers a combined $51 billion last year. Airlines for America, the industry's leading trade group, estimates that every penny per gallon change up or down equates to $190 million in the U.S. industry's annual fuel expense at current consumption rates.
Spot jet-fuel prices have slid about 16% from early September, which analysts said shaves about $5 billion off 2015 fuel-bill projections for the industry made before oil began its latest slide. In the near term, those savings "will go straight to the bottom line," said Scott Kirby, president of American Airlines Group Inc., the largest U.S. carrier by traffic.
For similar reasons, express delivery companies FedEx Corp. and United Parcel Service Inc. stand to benefit, as does the trucking industry-which carries 69% of all U.S. freight tonnage. For them, lower fuel costs are helping offset higher wages stemming from a driver shortage.
The express delivery companies generally pass on fuel savings to customers, but not immediately-which means those savings can show up in their bottom lines. "Certainly if prices stay as low as they are, that would be a benefit for the fourth quarter," UPS Chief Financial Officer Kurt Kuehn said in an interview last month.
Cheaper oil also benefits farmers, and not only because they spend less on tractor fuel. If lower gasoline prices encourage Americans to pump more into their vehicles, that could stimulate demand for ethanol, a fuel additive whose production is one of the biggest users of U.S. corn.
Low gasoline prices also help U.S. auto makers by emboldening consumers to buy more pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles, which generally yield higher profits than small cars. Sales of Detroit-brand large SUVs such as General Motors Co. 's Chevrolet Suburban are up 16% so far this year, and sales of big pickups like Ford Motor Co. 's F-150 rose 9.5% in October.
But an oil-price slump can cut both ways for U.S. industry.
In the case of auto makers, the government requires them to boost the average fuel economy of their U.S. car and light trucks every year to achieve 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. Hitting that target entails selling lots of small cars, electric vehicles, and larger vehicles made with costly lightweight materials and other fuel-saving hardware.
Ford executives warned last month that consumers, lulled by low pump prices, may not opt for vehicles that hold down greenhouse-gas emissions, sometimes with more costly technology. At GM, Chevy dealers have only 59 days' supply of Suburbans on their lots, but are sitting on more than three months' worth of unsold Sonic and Spark subcompacts and Volt plug-in hybrids, according to Autodata Corp.
"It's turning into a stampede away from fuel-efficiency," says Mike Jackson, head of AutoNation Inc., the No. 1 auto dealership chain in the U.S.
A sustained plunge for oil also would hurt the U.S. chemical industry, which is investing billions of dollars in new plants to make resins and other petrochemical products derived from cheap natural gas. Some petrochemicals-notably polyethylene, used in making plastics and other materials-can be made from derivatives of either oil or natural gas. U.S. makers of polyethylene use natural-gas liquids and have had a big cost advantage over rivals in Europe and Asia that don't have access to cheap gas and so rely on crude oil. When crude prices fall, that advantage diminishes, reducing profit margins for the U.S. chemical companies.
The blessing also is mixed for makers of pipes, valves, pumps and other equipment used in the oil sector. They benefit from lower transport costs but could also see demand slow from what has been one of the country's most robust sectors.
Caterpillar Inc., which supplies engines to the oil and gas industry, is watching the situation closely. If oil prices drop to the $70-to-$75 range and stay there, that would "put a chill" on the oil industry, Caterpillar CEO Doug Oberhelman told analysts in late October. If prices settle in the mid-$80s, he said, "we can all live with that."
For railroads, shipping crude from the U.S. energy boom has become one of the most lucrative and fast-growing segments of their business. Major railroads' revenue for hauling crude jumped from $25.8 million in 2008 to $2.15 billion in 2013, according to federal data.
If oil producers begin to pull back, it will hurt some railroads more than others. BNSF Railway Co., a unit of Warren Buffett 's Berkshire Hathaway Inc., hauls most of the oil out of the shale fields in North Dakota and Montana, and would likely feel a chill. Less affected would be Union Pacific Corp. , which hauls much less crude because its tracks are concentrated in the Southwest.
Skyrocketing oil prices allowed rail to compete more effectively against trucking, which uses more fuel. Rail analyst Anthony Hatch believes that railroads will continue to have an edge over highway transport as long as the price of oil doesn't drop below $50 a barrel.
Even for the airline industry, cheaper oil may not be all good, analysts say, if carriers see it as an opportunity to increase capacity and then lower fares to fill empty seats, some analysts say. Hunter Keay of Wolfe Research LLC recently noted that airlines did just that during a previous oil slump in 2010. "Then oil prices went right back up again, as they tend to, and 2011 stunk," he wrote.
Other analysts dismiss the concern, arguing that airline executives have learned financial discipline after a decade of bankruptcies and mergers. Moreover, most domestic carriers continued to raise fares even as oil prices slid in recent weeks.
Airlines coped with expensive oil in recent years by retiring their thirstiest, old airplanes and substituting new aircraft that burn less fuel. So a sustained drop in fuel prices could damp that demand, boding ill for plane makers. But Boeing Co. Chief Executive Jim McNerney indicated last month in response to a question that oil would have to fall below $70 a barrel for an extended period to trigger aircraft cancellations and deferrals by its customers.
Nearby Futures WSJ
October 27th, 2014 (bloomberg.com) by Luzi Ann Javier
Hedge Funds Cut Coffee Bull Bets as Brazil Drought Eases
Hedge funds pared back their biggest bullish coffee bet since 2008 as rains brought relief to drought-stricken growing areas in Brazil, the world's biggest producer and exporter.
Money managers cut their net-long position in arabica coffee for the first time in four weeks. Futures in New York tumbled 9.1 percent last week, the most since May. More regular and widespread showers will trigger new flowering for coffee plants after some blooms were lost amid dry conditions last month, Sao Paulo-based Somar Meteorologia said Oct. 21.
Prices surged 72 percent this year, the biggest gain among the 22 raw materials tracked by the Bloomberg Commodity Index. Brazil's worst drought in eight decades has threatened drinking supplies in Sao Paulo, South America's biggest metropolis, cut this year's coffee production and threatened the quality of the 2015 harvest. The nation accounts for a third of the world's output.
"Prices were reflecting a continuation of the drought," Paul Christopher, the St. Louis-based chief international strategist at Wells Fargo Advisors, which oversees $1.4 trillion, said Oct. 22. "If it is to end, that would be a new scenario. If the rains continue, it will certainly undercut the rally."
Arabica coffee for December delivery declined as much as 1.8 percent to $1.88 a pound on ICE Futures U.S. in New York, the lowest since Sept. 29. Prices fell 9.1 percent last week. The Bloomberg Commodity Index (BCOM) dropped 0.7 percent last week, the MSCI All-Country World Index of equities rose 3.1 percent and the Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index climbed 0.4 percent.
The net-bullish position in coffee fell 4.5 percent to 47,766 futures and options in the week ended Oct. 21, U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission data show. The holdings were down from 50,032 a week earlier, the highest since March 2008.
Widespread rains over Brazil's growing regions in the next 10 days will help replenish soil moisture and aid crop blooming, Gaithersburg, Maryland-based forecaster MDA Weather Services said in a report Oct. 24. The nation's coffee export council, known as Cecafe, said shipments in September rose 7.8 percent to 2.94 million bags in September from a year earlier. Each bag weighs 60 kilograms (132 pounds).
Rising supplies from other countries are helping to make up for crop damage in Brazil. In Colombia, the second-largest arabica exporter, shipments climbed 23 percent from 2013 to 830,000 bags in September, growers group Fedecafe said Oct. 6. Production of robusta beans, used in espresso and instant coffee, will increase inIndonesia, and output will hold near a record in Vietnam, the top grower of the variety, traders surveyed by Bloomberg forecast this month.
Farmers are still expecting more price gains. Growers are limiting sales on expectations of a further rally amid "major concerns" for blossoming, Cepea, a University of Sao Paulo research unit, said in a report Oct. 21. Plants are now developing the flowers that will become the cherry containing the coffee bean. Even with expected rains, some drought damage is "irreversible," Cepea said.
Sao Paulo residents were warned by a top government regulator last week to brace for more severe water shortages. Crop losses in Brazil signal a second straight global deficit next season, Stefan Uhlenbrock, senior commodity analyst at F.O. Licht, said Sept. 26.
While rains in Brazil may provide relief to some parts of the coffee belt, "there are other areas where you've had a lot of damage already, especially through the critical flowering stage," Chris Narayanan, the head of agricultural research at Societe Generale SA in New York, said Oct. 23. "The difficulty is the harvest is still months away, so we won't really know for sure how bad it is until we actually see the crop."
Combined net-wagers across 18 U.S. traded commodities rose 14 percent to 554,842 contracts, the biggest gain since February, the CFTC data show.
The net-bullish position in gold increased 45 percent to 75,273 contracts, the biggest gain since June. Prices dropped 0.6 percent in New York last week, snapping two straight gains. Global assets in exchange-traded products backed by bullion are close to the lowest in five years. The cost of living in the U.S. barely rose in September, the government said last week, curbing demand for an inflation hedge.
Bets on higher oil prices gained 5.7 percent to 186,774 contracts, the government data show. Investors got more bearish on copper, taking their net-short position to 11,942 contracts, compared with 11,375 a week earlier.
A measure of net-long positions across 11 agriculture commodities jumped 14 percent to 327,712 contracts, the government data show. The holdings climbed for a fourth straight week, the longest streak since April.
The net-long position in corn jumped 43 percent to 126,952 contracts, the biggest gain since March. Prices inChicago climbed for four straight weeks, the longest rally in seven months, as rains delayed harvesting in the U.S., the top grower and exporter. About 31 percent of the crop was gathered as of Oct. 18, trailing the five-year average of 53 percent, the Department of Agriculture said Oct. 20.
Farmers have had a hard time getting "the machinery into the field to collect the crop, with all the rains," Jon Guyer, a Laurel, Maryland-based fund manager at Arrow Investment Advisors LLC, which manages $722 million, said Oct. 24. "We could potentially see issues getting the crops harvested and getting them appropriately stored. If it turns out that a larger percentage is stored in less than ideal conditions, then spoilage would definitely be a higher concern than normal."
Nearby Futures WSJ
November 10, 2014 (WSJ.com) by Jesse Newman
Corn Prices Rise on Smaller-Than-Expected Crop
Wheat Prices Also Gain, While Soybeans Decline on Crop Forecast
Corn prices rose Monday as federal forecasters predicted the U.S. crop would be slightly smaller than expected, though still the biggest in history.
Meanwhile, soybeans fell while wheat gained.
In a closely watched monthly report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimated farmers will collect 14.407 billion bushels of corn this autumn, down from last month's forecast of 14.475 billion.
The government said average corn yields will reach an all-time high of 173.4 bushels per acre, below last month's estimate of 174.2 bushels.
The USDA didn't give a reason for its adjustments. Analysts expected the government to boost projections for corn output to about 14.5 billion bushels on yields of 175 bushels per acre, thanks to favorable weather that helped crops thrive throughout much of the Midwest.
Corn futures for December delivery on the Chicago Board of Trade rose 1 3/4 cent, or 0.5%, to $3.69 1/4 a bushel. Prices for the grain have fallen roughly 15% this year after a 40% decline last year, pressured by bumper U.S. crops.
"This is just tweaking the numbers," said Don Roose, president of U.S. Commodities, a brokerage in West Des Moines, Iowa. "The end result is that we still have burdensome supplies of corn in the U.S. and the world."
Analysts said the government may have trimmed its projections because of disappointing yields in some western and northern regions of the Farm Belt like in Minnesota and Iowa, where farmers' production suffered somewhat from a wet, cool spring and a stretch of hot and dry weather late in the season.
According to the USDA, U.S. corn reserves at the end of the 2014-15 season on Aug. 31 likely will total 2.008 billion bushels, down from last month's estimate of 2.081 billion, and below analysts' expectations for 2.132 billion.
Soybean prices fell after the USDA increased its projections for U.S. production and yields in line with analysts' expectations.
The government estimated soybean production at 3.958 billion bushels on yields of 47.5 bushels an acre, both records.
The USDA estimates that U.S. soybean stockpiles will total 450 million bushels at the end of the 2014-15 season, unchanged from last month's estimate and above analysts' expectations of 441 million.
CBOT November soybean futures slid 12 3/4 cents, or 1.2%, to $10.27 1/2 a bushel.
Wheat prices traded both higher and lower after the report. The USDA forecast smaller-than-expected U.S. supplies next year, but raised its estimate for global stockpiles of the grain.
CBOT December wheat added 2 3/4 cents, or 0.5%, to $5.17 1/4 a bushel.
The USDA said domestic inventories of wheat at the end of the 2014-15 season next May 31 would total 644 million bushels, lower than the 654 million estimated in October. Analysts predicted a forecast of 657 million bushels.
Globally, the government pegged wheat stockpiles for the 2014-15 season at 192.9 million metric tons, up from October's forecast of 192.6 million tons. Analysts projected 191.7 million tons for the 2014-15 year.
"We have a big supply of wheat in the world," said Mr. Roose, adding that foreign demand for U.S. wheat supplies could suffer if prices continue to climb and the U.S. dollar gets firmer. "World buyers are cost conscious," he said.
Nearby Futures WSJ
November 10, 2014 by the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), Agricultural Statistics Board, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)
The United States all orange forecast for the 2014-2015 season is 6.96 million tons, unchanged from the previous forecast but up 3 percent from the 2013 - 2014 final utilization. The Florida all orange forecast, at 108 million boxes (4.86 million tons), is up 3 percent from last season's final utilization. Early, midseason, and Navel varieties in Florida are forecast at 52.0 million boxes (2.34 million tons), down 2 percent from last season's final utilization. The Florida Valencia orange forecast, at 56.0 million boxes (2.52 million tons), is up 9 percent from last season's final utilization. In Florida, citrus growing conditions were ideal from the beginning of the citrus bloom to the start of the 2014-2015 season harvest. Arizona, California, and Texas forecasts are carried forward from October.
Florida frozen concentrated orange juice (FCOJ) yield forecast for the 2014-2015 season is 1.60 gallons per box at 42.0 degrees Brix, unchanged from the October forecast but up 2 percent from last season's final yield of 1.57 gallons per box. Projected yield from the 2014-2015 Early-Midseason and Valencia varieties will be published in the January Crop Production report. All projections of yield assume the processing relationships this season will be similar to those of the past several seasons.
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Frigid Temperatures Halt Winter Wheat Planting
November 13, 2014 Agweb.com
Cold temperatures gripping the Plains states have pushed winter wheat into dormancy and halted planting, but experts say the wintry weather will help the crop in the long-run as melting snow replenishes soil moisture.
The winter storm's impact on planting will be "a bigger deal" than the possibility of spotty winterkill in western Nebraska and the northeastern Colorado border where temperatures are expected to dip below zero by Thursday morning, agricultural meteorologist Don Keeney of MDA Weather Services said.
Wheat planting was already behind schedule across the southwestern Midwest, even before the cold hit.
Nebraska was finished with its wheat planting, but Oklahoma had seeded 96 percent and Texas had planted 88 percent of its winter wheat, the National Agricultural Statistics Service reported Monday. Missouri had 74 percent of its wheat seeded, while Illinois had seeded only 84 percent.
"They are not going to get any planting done and what is planted that hasn't germinated is not going to germinate either," Keeney said Wednesday.
The storm is not expected to impact Kansas much, Keeney said.
"The fields that haven't been planted, they will not get planted, but that is about it," Keeney said. "I don't think it will be a big deal in Kansas. If anything, the snow that they will get early next week will certainly be a plus for the wheat."
In Kansas, about 96 percent of wheat acres had been planted as of Sunday, compared to 99 percent that was already in the ground at the same time last year, according to NASS. "We are actually in pretty good shape in Kansas," said Dalton Henry, director of governmental affairs for industry group Kansas Wheat.
The state has also had some good soil moisture this fall compared to the last three or four years, he said.
"Certainly we want to be cautiously optimistic at this point in time because we are a long way from harvest, but (there has been) certainly more fall growth than we've had in recent memory," Henry said.
Snow is preferable to heavy rains because it usually melts slowly and seeps more easily into the soil, he said.
"Overall, I think (the storm) is going to be a plus for the wheat," Keeney said.
The storm will also delay the harvest of some fall crops for three to four weeks, particularly in parts of the country that have already gotten heavy snow. Those harvest delays will spread into the west central Midwest by early next week.
The Kansas corn harvest is 92 percent finished, but just 67 percent of sorghum and 84 percent of soybeans has been harvested, NASS reported.
"It wouldn't hurt the crop itself, but it will certainly keep the farmers out of the fields," Keeney said.
© Brian Gould, Agricultural and Applied Economics, UW Madison
November 10, 2014 (AgWeb.com) by Catherine Merlo
WASDE: Dairy Prices, Exports to Decline in 2015
Although cow numbers and per-cow output may moderate next year, here's what will pressure Class III prices down by $5 per cwt.
The lowered 2015 production forecast comes "as the expansion in cow numbers and growth in milk per cow are expected to be more moderate," USDA noted.
2015 production is expected to reach 212.3 billion pounds of milk, 6 billion pounds above this year's output. That's down about 500 million pounds from October's WASDE estimate but well above the 201.1 billion pounds of milk produced in the U.S. in 2013.
Perhaps most significant in today's report is USDA's forecast that Class III prices will drop by some $5 per cwt. next year. While that doesn't come as a surprise to many - current futures prices, after all, put the 2015 average at $17.00 -- the decline represents a sharp reality check.
"USDA's price forecast is still a 22% decrease from 2014," says Bob Devenport, a commodity consultant with the risk management firm of Stewart-Peterson. "It's the largest-ever, year-over-year decrease in the Class III average price."
USDA's Class III price for 2014 is projected higher at $22.50-$22.60 per cwt. on stronger cheese prices, but weaker cheese prices in 2015 will pressure the Class III price to $17.15-$18.05 per cwt. next year, the report predicted.
The downward slide is rooted in expectations for record milk production, lower exports and ample supplies of dairy products next year.
Today's WASDE report lowered export forecasts for 2014 and 2015 as U.S. dairy products, especially on a skim solids basis, remain less competitive in world markets. This year's export level is expected to reach 12.3 billion pounds, while 2015's exports will decline by 10% to 11 billion pounds.
While current price movements led USDA to raise its estimates for 2014 cheese and nonfat dry milk (NDM) prices, it lowered 2015 price forecasts on expectations that domestic supplies will be relatively large. Today's report pegged next year's cheese price at $1.690-$1.780 per lb., down sharply from 2014's expected $2.170-$2.180 per lb. The report also dropped butter price forecasts for both 2014 and 2015 on prices to date and weaker expected exports. Similar to cheese projections, butter is forecast to drop to $1.660-$1.780 per lb. next year, compared to the $2.120-$2.150 expected for 2014.
USDA projected a lower 2014 Class IV price, ranging from $17.45-$18.45 per cwt. , as lower butter prices more than offset a higher NDM price. For 2015, weaker butter and NDM prices will drive the Class IV price to $17.05-$$18.05 per cwt.
The All-Milk price is expected to reach $24.15 to $24.25 per cwt. for 2014. But USDA expects that price to drop to $18.85 to $19.75 per cwt. next year.
Market watchers like Devenport aren't over-reacting to the latest price projections for next year. "There's a long way to go before 2015 is all said and done," Devenport says. ""We're going to see a lot of volatility between now and then."
© Brian Gould, Agricultural and Applied Economics, UW Madison
MADISON, WI November 7, 2014 (REPORT 45)
The butter market is firming as sales into retail and food service accounts grow seasonally. Production decisions for churn operators vary largely on incoming orders. Butter makers are putting increased emphasis on managing inventories closely to ensure that minimal stock building occurs over the last two months of 2014. Export orders are lackluster, given higher U.S. butter prices compared to competing global markets. Domestic buyer interest is strong for retail and food service segments, while being at moderate levels for ingredient butter. Bulk butter prices ranged from 5 cents under to 6 cents over market, with various time frames and averages used. Friday at the CME Group, Grade AA butter closed at $2.0075, up $0.1175 from last Friday. The NASS Dairy Products report noted September U.S. butter production totaled 130.1 million pounds, up 1.2% from last month, but 1.6% lower than a year ago. January-September U.S. production totals 1.378 billion pounds, 2.5% behind 2013 during the same time span. According to FAS, January-September U.S. butter exports total 139.6 million pounds, a 2% increase compared to last year.
© Brian Gould, Agricultural and Applied Economics, UW Madison
MADISON, WI November 7, 2014 (REPORT 45)
Cheese orders are increasing from retail buyers but manufacturers are being cautious about allowing inventories to get too far beyond order requirements. Milk is readily available in all regions and many cheese plants have active current schedules to fill pre-holiday orders. A concern of manufacturers is the lower price levels of foreign cheese relative to prevailing prices in the U.S. Nevertheless, in some plants with committed milk supplies, manufacturing cheese is preferred to using milk to manufacture other drydairy products at current pricing. The Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS), reports that September 2014 U.S. cheese and curd exports totaled 61.4 million pounds, a 9% increase from a year ago. Dairy Products (NASS) reports total 2014 U.S. cumulative cheese production through September, 8.47 billion pounds, leads last year through September by 2.7%. Friday at the CME Group, barrels closed at $2.1200 up 1 cent from a week ago and 40# blocks at $2.2000, up 6 cents from a week ago.
Copyright © 2014 The Plastics Exchange. LLC.
November 7, 2014 (Chicago, IL) The Plastics Exchange
The spot Polypropylene market saw average activity and prices managed steady. October PP contracts were up $.04/lb and at least the entire increase will come out in November, as PGP monomer contracts begin to settle down $.05/lb. After a flurry of discounted late month PP sales, the pace of spot railcar offers diminished. While negative sentiment abounds, the market is far from over supplied and actual transaction prices are sliding in a controlled manner. The decline would appear much steeper if one considers the mid-high $.90s/lb asking prices of early September, but our prices do not reflect such as there were always lower market-clearing offers available along the way. Reseller inventories are fairly light and since producers' offers are still somewhat expensive, traders are apprehensive about buying material without a customer order in hand.
The King Nut Report
November 7, 2014 (Solon, OH) King Nut
PEANUTS - Both spot and forward contract prices for Peanuts have remained firm throughout the fall. In general, the supply of Peanuts is plentiful, however the supply of blanched Peanuts is somewhat constrained. Export sales to Europe are very high and increasing and the majority of purchases by the European market are blanched Peanuts. Indications are that blanching time, and thus the available supply of blanched Peanuts, will remain tight through at least the majority of 2015.
ALMONDS - There has been a slight softening in the Almond market over the last couple of weeks as spot prices have pulled back from the record high prices of September and October. The spot price is expected to firm again as we enter 2015 and the market adjusts to the new price levels. Meanwhile most Almond shellers remain unwilling to quote for forward contracts or will quote only at a premium based on their expectations for 2015. Shellers will be closely watching rainfall and snowfall this fall and winter as well as weather conditions during the spring bloom. Even if positive weather and bloom reports indicate increased supply of Almonds for 2015, prices may continue to increase as demand remains strong despite the record high prices of the past year.
CASHEWS - The Cashew market continues to remain firm. Cashews, widely considered a more premium nut than Almonds, have been priced more attractively than Almonds for several months now. Some demand for Almonds is transferring to Cashews and is now driving up Cashew prices. Prices for whole grades climbed rapidly in September and October. Broken grades such as pieces, halves and butts continue to sell at a premium due to lack of supply as well as increasing overseas consumption. Cashews at this point still remain more attractively priced than Almonds but prices are rising as the overall nut market moves upward. The best hope to short-circuit this upward trend is positive news from the spring Almond bloom.