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By: Annie Pei
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Dennis Gartman's favorite commodity pick right now isn't gold, crude oil or copper. In fact, it's something much more edible.
"Corn looks like it's made its lows," Gartman said on Thursday's episode of "Futures Now." "If you have to buy something, go buy some corn."
(Read more: Dennis Gartman: 'I was wrong')
It's been a long road down for corn futures, which hit a high of $8.49 per bushel in August 2012, and got close to $4.00 in January 2014. But the grain has bounced off of that low, adding 12 percent in the following month and a half.
In fact, on the very day corn hit its intraday low, it jumped 5 percent higher on the USDA corn production forecast, in which the agency cut its forecast of 2013 corn production from 13.989 billion bushels to 13.925 billion bushels.
Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen is set to appear before the Senate Banking Committee on Thursday, in the delayed second day of her monetary policy testimony. And though no major bombshells are expected, subtle nuances could speak volumes to a market hungry to learn what the Fed will do next.
Yellen testified before the House Financial Services Committee on Feb. 11, and had been slated to appear before the Senate Banking Committee on the 13th. But a snowstorm intervened, pushing the second day of her testimony two weeks into the future.
That means that Yellen, inquiring senators and market professionals alike have been granted the benefit of having seen the Federal Open Market Committee's January meeting minutes as well as some additional economic data, between the two sessions.
"The odds have gone up for something interesting to happen in day two," said Carl Riccadonna, Deutsche Bank senior U.S. economist. "This is particularly the case because we've seen the meeting minutes, and those minutes showed internal debate about what to do with the fed funds rate thresholds."
One of the Federal Reserve's key tools is the federal funds rate, which is the Fed-targeted rate at which banks lend to each other. In its January statement, the FOMC stated once again that it would keep that rate "exceptionally low ... for as long as the unemployment rate remains above 6-1/2 percent" and inflation remains low.
But now that the unemployment rate dropped to 6.6 percent in January, just a hair's breadth away from that long-watched 6.5 level, the Fed might look to change its guidance.
The problem is that the Fed is currently divided on how, exactly, to go about that.
(Read more: Kudlow: Janet Yellen's problem)
"Participants agreed that, with the unemployment rate approaching 6-1/2 percent, it would soon be appropriate for the Committee to change its forward guidance," according to the recently released minutes of the January meeting. "A range of views was expressed about the form that such forward guidance might take."
Suggestions included shifting from quantitative guidance to qualitative guidance, or including additional factors in the threshold. Other possibilities are reducing the threshold unemployment rate, or going ahead and raising the federal funds rate "relatively soon," as some hawks suggested.
"The key focus on Thursday will be any and all comments around forward guidance," Riccadonna said. "She doesn't want to commit to something, as that may upset other committee members. But she could talk about the pros and cons of different options, which would be a way of showing her hand in terms of what she favors."
It's called "the widow maker" for a reason.
Natural gas futures for March delivery fell some 8 percent on Tuesday, after an extremely volatile Monday session that saw the commodity lose 17 percent in eight hours.
These two days of serious losses came after a gut-wrenching rally that saw nat gas rise from $4.81 per million British thermal units to above $6 in four sessions.
But even as the March futures plunged on Tuesday, the April futures clung onto a modest gain for much of the session. This is because the March contract expires Wednesday, so even as traders rushed to exit positions, some looked to the April contract as they continued to make bullish bets on the fuel.
For traders who speculate on the futures of natural gas or any other commodity, it is imperative to exit a long position in order to avoid receiving the physical commodity (or "taking delivery").
"Rather than just bailing out of their longs in March, [some traders] still have faith that this market's going higher, so what they're doing is selling March, buying April," said Anthony Grisanti of GRZ Energy on Tuesday's episode of "Futures Now." "So that's why you see the March contract lower today, and the April contract up a bit, because the money is still flowing to natural gas right now, looking for higher numbers."
Indeed, while about 60,000 March contracts traded on Tuesday, some 175,000 of the April contracts traded.
Yet while the contract rollover explains the move, it doesn't quite explain its magnitude.
"This volatility is unprecedented for this market," Grisanti said. "This is completely abnormal for these markets. Usually you'll see 3-, 4-, 5-cent—not a $1.50 move, which is what we've seen."
(Read more: Natural gas could rise to $8: Energy expert)
As the last of the fourth quarter earnings trickle in, the S&P 500's earnings growth rate for the quarter looks strong, at 8.5 percent. What's weird is what analysts are predicting for earnings growth in 2014.
In an outlook that could only be described as disjointed, analysts are expecting earnings growth to dive to 0.9 percent in the first quarter, only to grow to 11.9 percent in the third quarter.
It's been a banner week for natural gas. Hitting $6.40 per million BTUs on Thursday, the commodity has risen more than 30 percent in eight trading sessions, up to a five-year high. But expert energy trader Rob Raymond says we may not have seen the top just yet.
"With sustained cold, you could see $7 or $8," said Raymond, the founder and principal of RCH Energy, on Thursday's episode of "Futures Now." "This is about rationing demand. Because basically, you're running out of molecules, and at some point, if the supply side can't react in a 15-to-30-day period, you've got to bid it up to cause people to consume less of it."
Natural gas tends to rise in the winter and the summer, because it is used for both heating and cooling. The problem is that logistical difficulties make it difficult for the market to adjust to highly unusual weather.
"We had the coldest winter in 100 years this year and had the warmest winter in 50 years in 2012," Raymond wrote to CNBC.com. "The system isn't designed to handle these sort of multiple standard deviation events from an inventory management standpoint, as there isn't enough storage capacity in the ground. This translates into lots of volatility in the short term."
New developments have made the problem even worse.
"Further exacerbating the issue is that we have moved 20 percent of US daily supply to a very cold part of the country in the winter, the northeast. So when it gets really cold, the supply side is now affected due to well freeze-offs," Raymond wrote.
(Read more: Low on natural gas, California told to power down)
MacNeil Curry, the head of global technical strategy at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, says that historic highs in the stock market are just around the corner.
"For all-time highs in the S&P it's probably not that far away—I'd say probably a couple of weeks on the outside," Curry said on Tuesday's episode of "Futures Now." "Seasonals start to get much more constructive once we get past February and we're already almost through February, we've got a week and a half. So I'd say probably two weeks or so with regard to higher S&P."
The index's current all-time intraday high is 1,850.84, which it touched on Jan. 15. (The S&P also made its all-time closing high, 1,848.38, on the same day.) With the S&P currently trading at 1,841, those levels are just a hair's breadth away.
Yet Curry was bearish on the S&P 500 until Friday, when the market's strength told him he was wrong.
"We were pretty bearish a couple of weeks ago for a whole host of reasons," including market breadth, the price action from the 1,850 high and seasonal trends, he said.
"But the fact of the matter is the price action said we were wrong. We broke through some pretty decent resistance. ... It said to us that our analysis was wrong and that the correction had run its course, and that the larger uptrend had proven to be far more resilient than we anticipated," Curry said.
(Read more: BAML's top technician: I was wrong—buy stocks!)
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