Traverse City Record-Eagle

Business

March 16, 2013

Futures File: Orange juice prices jump to highest this year

Orange juice prices jumped higher recently as outlooks for the Florida orange crop continue to shrink due to poor weather and crop disease.

The USDA recently reduced its estimate of the US orange crop size by 1.4 percent, partially due to weather concerns in Florida, the source of one quarter of the world’s oranges. Large portions of Florida are experiencing dry conditions and temperatures recently dipped into the low 40s, both of which are placing stress on the orange trees. Furthermore, a disease known as “citrus greening” is threatening orange groves, causing trees to lose limbs and prematurely drop fruit.

On expectations for a smaller supply of oranges, the market for frozen concentrated orange juice sprang to the highest price this year on Wednesday, reaching $1.40 per pound. Since the beginning of the year, prices have risen by 28 cents per pound, or 24 percent.

Going forward, there is little threat of a frost in Florida, removing one uncertainty from this year’s crop, but analysts will continue to track precipitation and the progression of citrus greening.

Crude oil supplies on the rise

As a result of extremely high U.S. oil production (coming from new sources such as North Dakota) and struggling U.S. demand, U.S. crude oil supplies have risen to their highest level since 1983. Supplies are more than 10 percent higher than they were just one year ago. Historically, crude oil supplies peak in May ahead of summer. Nonetheless, current crude oil supplies are higher than the five-year average for May crude oil supplies.

Crude had seen some price support as traders feared that a confrontation with Iran would send crude oil prices skyrocketing. However, Iranian leaders seem more eager to come to the bargaining table as sanctions are taking their toll on the Iranian economy. Thus, the risk premium built into crude prices appears to be getting smaller.

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