Ahead of a massive day for tech stocks, Louise Yamada makes the case that tech's bull run will continue.» Read More
Have you been paying too much for gasoline? The culprit might be corn. But a shift by the Environmental Protection Agency could alleviate the situation.
In an attempt to spur usage of biofuels, the EPA mandated that refiners blend a given amount of ethanol into gasoline. That requisite number of gallons of renewable fuels required has risen over time, and is set to rise further.
The problem is that fuel consumption is falling. And since the law enacted by Congress simply requires more gallons of biofuels to be used (rather than requiring a certain percentage of biofuels in each gallon), declining gasoline usage makes it difficult to blend in the growing amounts of ethanol required.
This is because few cars on the road can safely take gas with more than 10 percent ethanol, leaving refiners searching for another solution.
So to substitute for additional ethanol, refiners have bought Renewable Identification Numbers, known as RINs. These RINs have become a new input cost for gasoline, and they have been rising in price. Many have worried that as the standards for the amount of biofuels needed increases, the situation will become worse, driving the cost of RINs yet higher.
"The problem is that you're trying to put more renewable fuel into a declining market," explained Andy Lipow of Lipow Oil Associates. "If standards continue to rise, the industry will be in a situation where they can't comply. And as a result, refiners announced that they will reduce the amount of crude they're processing due to the high cost of RINs. That decreases supply [of gasoline], and over time, prices go up."
So as a palliative measure, the EPA has said it might lower the biofuel volume goal for 2014. Specifically, the EPA wrote in a Wednesday press release that because of the fact that most gasoline has no more than 10 percent ethanol, "EPA is announcing that it will propose to use flexibilities in the RFS [Renewable Fuel Standards] statute to reduce both the advanced biofuel and total renewable volumes in the forthcoming 2014 RFS volume requirement proposal."
This sent the price of RINs nearly 20 percent lower, and gasoline futures fell 1.3 percent on Wednesday.
(Read more: US refiners, plagued by RINsanity, see 'half step' on biofuels)
Even after the recent selloff, gold volatility remains lower than some might have expected. But there's a good reason why.
Gold started the Wednesday session lower, after ending Tuesday on its lows. During the Tuesday session, gold initially hit a low of $1,278.10, finding our next support level dead-on. But later trading became choppy, with gold hitting $1,272.50 before recovering, and then again swinging to new lows at $1,271.80.
After two Fed presidents hinted on Tuesday that they believe we will see tapering before the end of the year, and possibly as early as September, gold's path of least resistance has been to the downside.
If it stalls, it falls! That's certainly the case when it comes to this S&P 500.
As the market has filled in around the psychologically important 1,700 level in the S&P, we have seen a slight stall in momentum, as the continued record highs have come in drips and drabs.
Technically, we usually like to see a blow-off top with lower closes to embrace any type of a bearish divergence. However, after such a sensational yearlong rally, it feels like the levee may be indeed dry on this Chevy.
In order to sell this market, we need confirmation under 1,692 in the S&P E-mini contract. Technically, there is a lot of room to back-and-fill on the chart, as the multiyear highs that were fiercely shattered sit down at 1,576 in the S&P.
(Read more: The secret small-cap warning sign)
Wharton professor Jeremy Siegel has long been bullish on the market—and over the past few years, he's been dead-on.
In early 2012, he famously called for Dow 15,000 by the end of 2013, and after enduring much mockery, Siegel saw the index hit his target in May.
The bull isn't changing his stripes. As the market has risen, Siegel's targets have, too.
On the Dow, "my target is 16,000 to 17,000 for the end of this year," Siegel said on Tuesday's "Futures Now." "And I think 18,000 is definitely achievable in 2014."
Why is Siegel so unabashedly bullish? Because he believes the market is in the midst of a uniquely bullish tug of war.
On one side is the Federal Reserve's quantitative easing program, which is pushing down bond yields. On the other is an economy that Siegel believes will accelerate in the second half of the year.
Corn and soybean futures have dropped precipitously this year, and both are trading near 52-week lows. This as cool weather and ample rain have led the USDA to predict a record-setting year for the corn and soybean harvest. But the view from the sky is telling a different story.
When Chip Flory of Pro Farmer recently flew over fields in Iowa and Minnesota to get the 30,000-foot view on this year's harvest—or to be more specific, the 1,000-foot view out of a "tiny little single prop plane"—he was a bit distressed by what he found.
First of all, many fields had "holes" or "washed out spots," where flooding had taken a toll. In addition, Flory saw many field that had gone totally unplanted, which occurs when farmers cannot get their crops planted by a given date (they will then file insurance claims).
The problem is that we have to wait until the middle of August to get preliminary data on these "prevented planted acres" from the USDA's Farm Services Agency. And at that point, the market could be surprised by how many of these unplanted acres are out there.
(Read more: Seed giants try tochange image of GMO crops)
"I don't want to say the USDA's getting it wrong, because the USDA has a process they go through," Flory told CNBC.com. "But it's early enough that they just don't have all the data and all the observations that they need to accurately assess everything that's going on out here in northern Iowa and southern Minnesota. As time goes on, and the USDA see how the crop matures, they will obviously be collecting all the data they need."
So if there is a disconnect between what traders and analysts expect out of supply, and what the harvest actually gives, that could be because the crop is so "late" this year—meaning that it hasn't matured as much as it normally would by early August.
"We're at a stage in development that is, in the worst cases, a month behind where it should be," Flory said. "Some of the corn and soybeans are three weeks behind, some are two, but very, very little of it is on time."
Flory blames both a "late planting," and "cooler-than-normal temperatures and cloudy conditions," which slow down the maturation of the crop.
(Read more: Why the crop crunch won't cut your food bill)
The irony is that the problems Flory points out are largely due to the opposite of what plagued crops in 2012. "We had too much rain," he said. "Most droughts are broken by a flood, and the drought of 2012 was broken with a flood in April and May in a wide area of the Corn Belt."
Crude oil has gone my way over the past few days. But now I've changed my tune on how to trade black gold.
If you watch "Futures Now" or read the blog, you know that last week I was a seller of crude oil. I sold crude futures at $108.20, with a target of $105.00 on the downside. But even though we did see a healthy drop, I have since covered my short position and am now long.
Why have I switched sides?
The bulls continue to dominate this market.
Equities enjoyed strong trading into the close on Friday, as the market reached new all-time highs. However, heading into the Monday morning open, we have seen a very small range in the S&P futures.
This week is light on U.S. data, and traders will look to ride the momentum from Friday's bad-news-is-good-news payrolls number. The unemployment rate dropped, but fewer jobs were created than was expected, and this will help investors feel more comfortable that the Fed will maintain its backstop.
Although a tapering of quantitative easing is certainly coming, Friday's disappointing number makes it less likely that it will come in September.
(Read more: July jobs data more gravity than 'escape velocity')
Want to know where gold is going next? Then you better keep a close eye on Friday's close.
Gold started Friday morning much lower. Sentiment in the gold market was bearish, after ADP, GDP, jobless claims and ISM manufacturing numbers all beat expectations within the past 48 hours.
That left all eyes on the July jobs data, which bucked the bullish trend and missed expectations. While economists had expected to see a 184,000 increase in nonfarm payrolls, the number came in at 162,000. Gold had been hugging $1,284 to $1,285.60, the prior lows, but rallied nearly $35 off of the disappointing news.
(Read more: July jobs data more gravity than 'escape velocity')
The market got some pretty good data Thursday. But I still see some serious red flags for the U.S. economy.
On Thursday morning, we saw a lower-than-expected continuing jobless claims number showing that fewer people applied for new unemployment benefits in the week ending July 27 than in any week since early 2008. In addition, China's official Manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index rose to 50.3 for July, above the 49.9 that economists expected.
(Read more: China PMI could mark end of negative data surprises)
On the other hand, growth in U.S. gross domestic product is at 1.7 percent, mortgage applications are at a two-year low because of rising interest rates, and earnings have been mixed at best. I believe this is a market driven primarily by Federal Reserve policy.
As gold has gotten crushed this year, hedge funds have backed out of the trade, according to Anthony Scaramucci. And the managing partner of SkyBridge Capital, often viewed as one of the most-connected people on Wall Street, believes there will be no reason for them to get back in anytime soon.
"Guys like [John] Paulson are always going to have a steady position in gold," Scaramucci said. "It's a very good diversifier for their overall aggregate personal net worth. But in general, most of the hedge funds have backed out of this trade."
Scaramucci believes that "when they write the history of this period," financial historians will remark that "gold should've worked, it could've worked, it would've worked, but it didn't work in this environment."
He then went on to list the four reasons why it won't get any easier to own gold.
1. Central bankers are exercising caution
Scaramucci notes that investors often hold gold to hedge against an inflationary catastrophe. The problem? The inflationary wolf is not exactly knocking at the door.
"There's a lot of very wealthy people that are going to own gold as a defensive hedge for what they're fearing is that whole Weimar Republic thing, where either the Europeans or the United States aggressively prints money, where the multiplier effect kicks in on the banking side, and you get this out-of-control inflation," Scaramucci said, referring to hyperinflation that occurred under the German democratic system in place between 1919 and 1933.
But Scaramucci says these gold bugs just aren't doing their research. "If you read the minutes from the Federal Reserve, or if you look at the essays that Ben Bernanke just recently published, you will discover that your central bankers, particularly in the United States, understand this issue very well. And that's one of the main reasons that gold has not worked in this environment."
The Fed minutes make clear that the Fed is keeping a close eye on inflation, and is keeping risk factors in mind. For instance, the latest Fed meeting minutes, from the July 18-19 meeting, note: "Although the staff saw the outlook for inflation as uncertain, the risks were viewed as balance and not particularly high."
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