Traverse City Record-Eagle

Business

February 15, 2014

Futures File: Chocolate too rich for Valentine’s Day?

As romantics shopped for sweets this week, they may have been surprised by high chocolate prices. While a holiday-driven price increase could certainly be a factor, the primary culprits are rising Asian chocolate consumption and insufficient West African cocoa production, which are reducing the supply of cocoa beans to American consumers.

Cocoa prices rose Wednesday to the highest level in over two years, grinding up to $2,961 per metric ton. Despite high prices, some analysts expect that rising incomes in the United States and developing nations will allow consumers to keep eating more sweets, which could continue cocoa’s sweet rally.

Silver skyrockets

Unlike gold, its glittery sister, silver has been languishing for weeks – until Friday, when silver blasted upward by 80 cents per ounce, hitting its highest price since last November. A weak US dollar and declining silver inventories contributed to the sharp rise. As the value of our paper dollar declines, investors appreciate the inherent worth of silver and other “hard” assets.

Silver is highly valued due to its unique properties as the best conductor of electricity and reflector of light. The antimicrobial qualities of silver have been identified as a potential solution to the increasing plague of antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria.

Some artists (and girlfriends) consider silver as beautiful as gold and prefer silver jewelry which cost less than 5% as much. As the “poor man’s gold,” silver may gain in popularity due to the fact that an investor can buy over 40 ounces of silver instead of a single ounce of gold. As of mid-morning Friday, the price of silver was $21.25, up $1.30 during the week.

Diners dismay at high meat prices

Pork and beef specials in restaurants may seem expensive this weekend as well, as cattle and hog prices have continued rising. Prices for each meat jumped more than a penny per pound again this week, pushing the cost of pork and beef near all-time highs. A nationwide shortage of beef cattle, an ongoing piglet-killing disease, and rising grain prices are all contributing to more expensive meat.

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