LIVESTOCK HIGHLIGHTS: Top Stories of the Day

Features Dow Jones Newswires

TOP STORIES

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U.S. Farmers, Who Once Fed the World, Overtaken by New World Powers

GREENVILLE, Ill. -- On a pancake-flat stretch of land not far from the Mississippi River, Illinois farmer Jerry Gaffner thumbs through weather forecasts and crop reports on his tablet computer, searching for clues about when to market his soybean crop.

The data streaming in isn't from Illinois or even the American Midwest. It is from half a world away in Brazil, where farmers are harvesting what's expected to be a record soybean crop. With 43% of the export market -- up from just 12% 30 years ago -- Brazil can sway global prices with a weather hiccup or transportation snarl, spurring U.S. farmers to sell crops and capture profits, or to bunker grain and hold off until prices improve.

Mr. Gaffner pays close attention to South American conditions because of the new reality facing U.S. farmers: America's agricultural dominance has eroded.

Credit Suisse: Kroger Should Look to Buy Whole Foods -- Market Talk

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11:12 ET - Kroger (KR) should explore an acquisition of struggling natural grocer Whole Foods Market (WFM), Credit Suisse says. Combining the two could generate $600M in savings, roughly 3% of WFM's sales. KR has nearly $16B in natural and organic sales, but momentum is slowing and this market still is a bright spot for struggling food retailers. Natural food sales in the US were $108B in 2015, a 9% increase over the prior year. KR needs to look to M&A as it posted its first slowdown in sales in a decade last quarter. (heather.haddon@wsj.com; @heatherhaddon)

STORIES OF INTEREST

US Farm Policies Sent Signal to Grain Rivals -- Market Talk

15:29 ET - Policy decisions in the US--such as the 2005 Renewable Fuel Standard, which led to roughly one-third of the US corn crop to be used in fuel production--encouraged competitor countries to step up their farming, academics say. The price run-up in corn and other crops, driven partly by rising ethanol production, "created a huge incentive" for countries in Eastern Europe and South America to boost crop yields and produce more grain and animal feed, says Michael Langemeier, an agricultural economics professor at Purdue University. (jacob.bunge@wsj.com; @jacobbunge)

Trudeau: Dairy Regime Works 'Very Well' for Canada -- Market Talk

12:13 ET - In his first comments since President Donald Trump singled out Canada's dairy regime for criticism, Canada PM Justin Trudeau said he wasn't going to overreact and would "lay out the facts" to the White House on agriculture. "Let's not pretend we are in a global free market when it comes to agriculture. Every country protects for good reasons its agricultural industries," Trudeau said at Toronto event hosted by Bloomberg. He noted the US is running a trade surplus with Canada on dairy, "so Canada is not the challenge here." He said Canada's supply-management system -- where prices for dairy are set based on production costs, and foreign competition is hit with tariffs -- works "very well" for the country, and was willing to talk about improvements with US once Nafta discussions commence. (paul.vieira@wsj.com; @paulvieira)

Danone Raises Guidance After Closing WhiteWave Buy

Danone, the world's biggest yogurt maker, raised its guidance for recurring earnings per share growth for 2017, days after closing its $10.4 billion acquisition of WhiteWave.

The French company said it was now targeting double-digit recurring EPS growth at constant exchange rates, instead of a rise of "at least 5%" it had targeted in February when it didn't include WhiteWave.

Meanwhile, the company said its sales in the January-March period rose 3% to EUR5.46 billion, helped by organic growth of 0.7%. That performance was in line with the average estimates of analysts.

FUTURES MARKETS

Cattle Futures Extend Gains as Hogs Fall

CHICAGO--Cattle futures extended their highs on Thursday, building on the momentum of an active cash market earlier this week.

After a recent slowdown in the cash trade, sales between packers and feedyards took an upturn on Wednesday. Cattle sold for between $1.30 and $1.32 a pound in southern states, with a few more sales at $1.33 further north.

CME June lean hog futures fell 1.8%, to 68.675 cents a pound. Futures prices have fallen sharply this week.

CASH MARKETS

Zumbrota, Minn Hog Steady At $35.00 - Apr 20

Barrow and gilt prices at the Zumbrota, Minn., livestock market today are steady at $35.00 per hundredweight.

Sow prices are steady. Sows weighing under 450 pounds are $33.00-$35.00, 400-450 pounds are at $33.00-$35.00, 450-500 pounds are $33.00-$35.00 and those over 500 pounds are $37.00-$39.00.

The day's total run is estimated at 150 head.

Prices are provided by the Central Livestock Association.

Estimated U.S. Pork Packer Margin Index - Apr 20

All figures are on a per-head basis.

Date Standard Margin Estimated margin

Operating Index at vertically -

integrated operations

*

Apr 20 +$38.10 +$29.28

Apr 19 +$38.08 +$30.42

Apr 18 +$37.45 +$31.53

* Based on Iowa State University's latest estimated cost of production.

A positive number indicates a processing margin above the cost of production of the animals.

Beef-O-Meter

This report compares the USDA's latest beef carcass composite

values as a percentage of their respective year-ago prices.

Beef

For Today Choice 96.9

(Percent of Year-Ago) Select 95.2

USDA Boxed Beef, Pork Reports

Wholesale choice-grade beef prices Thursday rose 55 cents per hundred pounds, to $215.72, according to the USDA. Select-grade prices rose $1.57 per hundred pounds, to $203.57. The total load count was 111. Wholesale pork prices fell 53 cents, to $74.02 a hundred pounds, based on Omaha, Neb., price quotes.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

April 20, 2017 17:36 ET (21:36 GMT)