Yesterday at church one of my neighbors, Larry Layton, told me he'd sure like to see me write something positive about the cattle markets.
I told him I've been working on it. In fact all last week I strained to write such an article.
The problem is that I've transitioned from my mid-year position of cautiously optimistic to ... hopeful. I think that's the best word I can come up with to describe my current state. Or possibly I'm guardedly pessimistic.
Let me explain. The beef markets have made their move to retrace half of the big, uninterrupted move up from 2009-2014. Now we're seeking new direction. That could be positive, and several pundits think we could average $130 or more in live cattle pricing for the year.
On the other hand, the economy is sickly and weak. The U.S. Gross Domestic Product has been at depression levels since 2008. Underlying everything is an unprecedented 20-year credit bubble created by the Federal Reserve Board's easy-money policy, which of course ramped up dramatically after the so-called "great recession" of 2008 into quantitative easing round one, round two and ultimately, a third round called by a different name.
You can see this rapid advance in money supply on the chart I've included from the St. Louis Fed branch.
Much of this cheap money never made it past the banks, which borrowed it and loaned it back to the federal government and/or the Fed for a small profit. The exception was that apparently large amounts of it was borrowed and went into the stock market and perhaps the commodities markets and into currency trading and derivatives markets. I've read numerous times this was allowed, maybe encouraged, by repeals and "new interpretations" of laws such as the Glass-Steagall Act, which were passed after the excesses of the Great Depression of the 1930s. Those attempts to make banking and investment intertwine began as early as the 1960s.
I freely admit I struggle with fully understanding this central-bank, fiat money system. However, this chain of events did prove at least one thing: It proved Keynesian policy cannot force money out into an ailing marketplace that has no use for it.
Now the Fed is wanting to pull some of that money back out of the markets by raising the rates and possibly by recalling some of those dollars. Their actual policy remains somewhat a mystery to me, but the stock markets are showing signs of this change and from a general global recession as they pull back in most sectors.
A recent article from economist David Stockman explains some of the investment bubbles and other issues caused by the Fed's money bubble.
If the economy keeps floundering, I see beef continuing to resist upward pressure and yielding to downward pressure.
Further, we're still posting record and near-record retail pricing, despite declines of up to 30 percent in cattle markets. Large and near-record supplies of red meats in cold-storage suggest to me the retailers and wholesalers are still knee-deep in high-priced beef and waiting on those supplies to dwindle, and for newer, cheaper beef to arrive before they lower their prices to consumers.
However, here's my positive outlook. If our nation's consumers can limp along and hold this bedraggled economy to its walker, beef should have a chance to make that decent recovery so many pundits are calling for, with live-cattle prices this year averaging $120-147, as called for in a new outlook from agrimoney.com.