Weekly commodity wrap-up

Oats blow up

The crazy wild explosion in oats continued this week, with oats climbing an unprecedented $0.60 per bushel over corn. It’s counterintuitive for oats to be worth more than corn and goes against economic laws. The adage “oats know,” which is based on the historical tendency for oats for price moves to precede moves in other grains, especially corn, makes the size and timing of the jump catch even more attention.

Few explanations have been accepted for the rally so far. However, previous sharp rises in oats have been associated with transportation problems in Canada (a major exporter with limited rail space), and the drought and extreme heat.

Others have attributed it to a “short squeeze,” a type of panic buying that occurs when a major market participant sells a portion of a commodity they don’t yet own. Those who are short are forced to chase prices higher to “cover” their short positions. Short squeezes often end in a blow-off top and downward price swing, causing many traders to remain especially alert and cautious. Oats for December delivery traded for $5.70 per bushel this afternoon, whereas December corn brought $5.27.

Demand for oats

Oats, while a popular human cereal, are primarily used in animal feeds. Their high fiber, starch, and 17% protein content create a nutritious combination for horses, cattle, sheep and poultry. They are packed with manganese, phosphorus, B vitamins, antioxidants, and soluble fiber, which lowers cholesterol levels. Their fat or oil content is higher than other cereals and provides energy value for both livestock and people.

Watch out for farmers on the road

Agriculture is the most dangerous American business sector, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. And this time of year — harvest season — is hectic. So to help raise awareness and celebrate the farmers who help put food on our tables, the White House has proclaimed a National Farm Safety and Health week each year since 1944. One of the highlighted topics this year is rural road safety.

The National Education Center for Agricultural Safety (NECAS) urges drivers to be cautious on rural roads to help save lives. Safety suggestions include not using cellphones while behind the wheel, allowing farm equipment a lot of space, using headlights and wearing seatbelts, even if going a short distance.

Opinions are solely the writer’s. Walt Breitinger is a commodity futures broker in Valparaiso, Ind.