The US-China Trade War/Soybean Front: Home before the (Next Batch of) Leaves Fall

On July 9, 2018, over two years ago, reader CoRev wrote:

Those of us arguing against the constant anti-tariff, anti-Trump dialogs have noted this will probably be a price blip lasting until US/Chinese negotiations end. We are on record saying the prices will be back approaching last year’s harvest season prices.

Prices were in the 982 range in October 2017, midpoint in the previous harvest season. As of today, November futures are at 881.

Since then, despite the recession, the overall CPI has risen about 4.3%, while soybean prices have fallen 10.3% (and about 15.7% below what it was when Mr. Trump announced the Section 301 action against China). But…victory is at hand!

Or, maybe not:

Source: Chad Bown, Aug 5, 2020.


66 thoughts on “The US-China Trade War/Soybean Front: Home before the (Next Batch of) Leaves Fall

  1. pgl

    I love this from Sammy: “We are on record saying the prices will be back approaching last year’s harvest season prices.”

    Who is this “we”? Does Sammy have multiple personalities? Or does Sammy have some sort of committee of “experts”. His stock market forecaster must be Kevin DOW 36000 Hassett and his expert on the containment of this virus must be Lawrence Kudlow. And of course the committee includes Donald Luskin who on September 14, 2008 predicted a continuation of the “Bush boom”.

    1. 2slugbaits

      You’re being unfair to sammy. I believe it was the ever reliable CoRev who said that. He never disappoints.

      1. pgl

        OK – it was CoRev. I need a program to keep up with which one of the Usual Suspects we are currently dealing with.

    2. joseph

      The “we” is just a form of self-aggrandizement. It is supposed to give you the impression that he has this crack staff of experts working for him.

      Similar to Kopits use of “we” in his prognostications. It’s really just him working out of the basement of his home in his pajamas, furiously flogging google search.

        1. noneconomist

          The price is what it is. Sooner or later it will go back up. Our great farmers are doing fine. Our great generals agree.

    3. Moses Herzog

      I’m simpleminded sometimes. I’m not being facetious there, I’m bluntly self-indicting. But I actually assumed what CoRev meant when he said “we” was “the usual suspects” on this blog. I don’t remember who started that moniker up pgl or whoever but I always felt it hit the mark and we all knew who we were talking about without listing names. Frankly I even considered “Princeton”Kopits in that group but maybe some people would say Kopits had “one foot in and one foot out” of “the usual suspects” cult??

      It’s also worth noting, and I can probably even find my comment with a minor amount of trouble. I always remembered the number 888 as my personal benchmark on how to judge “the recovery” or “rebound” that CoRev incorrectly predicted. Because I had spent so much time in China and I knew how some Chinese are obsessed with the number 8, and the futures price was vacillating very closely to that 888 mark. So I knew I would remember that. So on top of the many ways Menzie has of documenting CoRev’s horrid predictions, I can tell you I had that number locked into my mind. And here we are at 881, seven below the mental benchmark I was using. So, not that he needs it, but if Menzie requires a court witness on this I’m there.

      1. pgl

        I came up with the “Usual Suspects”. And I’m consulting with a trademark attorney so I can charge royalties on its use! Oh wait – the name has been out there ever since that great movie.

    4. baffling

      “we” is simply an indication of corev’s poor education and training. he never learned the difference between plural and singular. similar deficits emerge when he tries to discuss mathematical modeling, statistics and physics. corev is an indictment on how we do allow some failures in the public school system. i am sure he believes a charter school would have been better for him. but some students are clay that can be molded, and others are rocks that weigh the others down. corev is the latter.

    1. Willie

      What, exactly is this supposed to accomplish? Is it intended as a distraction from the rest of bunker boy’s failures? If the aluminum industry doesn’t want it, what is another bunker boy failure going to accomplish, besides piling on more misery?

      I think he’s tired of responsibility and wants to lose.

      1. baffling

        as i have said before, prepare for a scorched earth policy. there will be not strategic actions by trump benefitting the long term prosperity of the usa. everything is tactical and short term, an effort to mobilize his troops before the election. he is not concerned with long term issues. and if by chance he wins, he will simply rescind the tariff, and claim after his reelection that the metals industry was booming again. and if he loses, he does not really care anyways…somebody else will clean up his mess, as usual.

    2. pgl

      Trump hated NAFTA 1.0 for one reason – it did not have his name on it. Ever noticed how he buffs out his chest when he signs some document. He does not care what the agreement does – he just needs his signature on it.

    3. The Rage

      He wants it from Russia. US simply cannot make raw aluminum anymore. Canada and Russia have a bunch.

      1. pgl

        Why can we not produce aluminum? No Rage – we can still mine bauxite and convert it to alumina. We still have smelters. Ah yes – the Russian bot known as Rage just said something else beyond dumb.

        1. The Rage

          Nigh, we can’t

          We are bauxite poor and need help. Russia/Canada have a bunch. We just can’t mine it bub.

          1. pgl

            Evidence that we do not have any bauxite? Rage – either produce really sourced data or just shut up.

        2. Baffling

          It is dirty and expensive to produce without cheap energy. This is why renewables will promote aluminum production. If you dont find cheap clean energy, then you have a problem.

          1. baffling

            iceland is a major producer. don’t think it is a major miner, though. cheap energy-hydro and geothermal.

          2. pgl

            “Nope, the smelter issue is not the issue. Lack of raw materials is critical.”

            Rage’s latest. Gee we import bauxite from Canada and then refine it here into alumina. And then we smelt it into aluminum.

            Rage is stupid enough to think we cannot do the latter stages of this because he does not get the basics of importing ‘raw materials’. The tariff was not on bauxite – it was on aluminum. But don’t tell the Rage as he is utter clueless as usual.

    4. pgl

      “The two largest U.S. aluminum producers, Century Aluminum and Magnitude 7 Metals, claim that there has been such a jump, and they argued to the White House earlier this year that aluminum prices were being depressed as a result. Beyond the two largest U.S. producers, however, a broader aluminum industry alliance opposes the tariffs, arguing that they will amount to little more than a tax on manufacturers.”

      I wonder how much Century Aluminum paid Jared Kushner and Wilbur Ross. In light of Rage’s latest fact free rant – I checked the data provided by Census. Over the past decade we have been exporting an average of $8.5 billion worth of alumina and aluminum products. Yea there has been some year by year variability with exports in 2019 being only $7.3 billion. And yea we import more than we export. But to say we cannot produce these products is one of Rage’s patented dumb as a rock comments.

      1. The Rage

        Read above. Aluminum recycling is the US main business and raw imports from Canada supports US manufacturing. I am sorry you don’t get this pgl. Your very ignorant while I have 30 years of manufacturing experience

        1. pgl

          I’m doing something The Rage never does – provide reliably sourced information:

          Yes we import bauxite but check out the information on alumina. For those who have not studies this, bauxite is refined into alumina. Alumina must go through the process of smelting before becoming an aluminum product. And the US does refine bauxite into alumina.

          So Ragey Pagey – watch and learn how to write a comment. In the meantime, take your rants some where else.

        2. pgl

          You are the expert in writing word salad. But that is all you know how to do. Move on troll because you are wasting everyone’s time. Oh but that is what you do with all of your worthless comments.

        3. Baffling

          Energy for smeltering is the issue, and its a dirty process. You can ship raw material easily. Processing is the problem.

      2. pgl

        Century Aluminum wants trade protection from Trump. I checked their financials which has been reporting losses of late but they also note most of their sales are to related parties. Here is the explanation in their 10-K:

        “Glencore may exercise substantial influence over us, and they may have interests that differ from those of our other stockholders. Glencore beneficially owns approximately 42.9% of our outstanding common stock and all of our outstanding Series A Convertible Preferred Stock. In addition, one of our five directors is a Glencore employee.”

        Glencore buys a lot of their products. Glencore is known for abusive transfer pricing so maybe that is part of why Century America is reporting losses – they are subsidizing tax cheats in Switzerland. But there’s more:
        “Century Aluminum Company is a global producer of primary aluminum and operates aluminum reduction facilities, or “smelters,” in the United States and Iceland…. In addition to our primary aluminum assets, we own a carbon anode production facility located in the Netherlands (“Vlissingen”). Carbon anodes are consumed in the production of primary aluminum. Vlissingen supplies carbon anodes to our aluminum smelter in Grundartangi, Iceland.”
        So Trump thinks he is propping up American jobs but these guys are producing in the Netherlands and Iceland and diverting profits to a Swiss tax cheat.

        1. not_really

          This kind of tax arbitrage is quite normal. Electronics manufacturers are famous for this..
          Step 1: Set up American subsidiary.
          Step 2: make electronic widget, total cost: USD $3 in Taiwan/China.
          Step 3: “Sell” the widget to your American subsidiary for $15.
          Step 4: American subsidiary’s retail price is $16.
          Step 5: American subsidiary runs at an enormous loss every year.
          Step 6: Profit! Pay lower tax rate on American revenue in China/Taiwan.

    5. macroduck

      This is not news to anybody, but Trump doesn’t really think market outcomes are worth much. He would, after all, be a pauper if it were not for government intervention on his behalf. There was no Canadian promise not to flood the U.S. with aluminum. Canada promised to adhere to a set of rules. Trump agreed to those rules, too. Now, he has changed the rules. Every game is Calvinball in Trump’s world.

    6. pgl

      Century Aluminum and Trump do not understand trade wars:

      A curious thing happened to Century Aluminum after the Chicago company got the tariff it wanted on aluminum imports: Its stock tanked. Century shares started diving once President Donald Trump proposed the 10 percent levy 15 months ago. They’re now down 70 percent. The duties encouraged Century to restart production at a Kentucky smelter and add workers. At the same time, they sparked retaliatory tariffs on scrap aluminum and fears of a broader trade war and of an economic slowdown, hammering the outlook for the nation’s second-largest aluminum producer. “The negatives associated with trade protection are trumping the positives associated with trade protection. Century is the litmus test of that,” says protection. Century is the litmus test of that,” says BMO Capital Markets analyst David Gagliano.

      This BMO dude has a sense of humor! The rest of this discussion is quite good.

    7. pgl

      I suggested earlier that Glencore’s controlling interest in Century Aluminum might be leading to lower profits for the US aluminum, which buys the alumina from third parties and then does the smelting to make aluminum products for customers like Glencore. Check this out from July 2008:

      Century Aluminum Company announced today an agreement with Glencore to unwind all of its primary aluminum financial forward sales contracts. As consideration for the cancellation of the forward financial sales contracts, which were entered into in November 2004 and June 2005 … Century Aluminum Company owns primary aluminum capacity in the United States and Iceland, as well as an interest in alumina and bauxite assets in the United States and Jamaica.

      I threw in the line about what this company does because THE RAGE seems to think if one does not own bauxite mines one cannot make aluminum. It seems Century Aluminum knows how to secure bauxite. But let’s check out the price of aluminum over time:

      It was not that high when these forward contracts were signed but it soared after they were signed. Glencore may a yuuuge profit from this deal. Of course aluminum prices plummeted in late 2008 but that was after Glencore got out of the deal, which once again screwed the shareholders of Century Aluminum.

  2. Moses Herzog

    “We” could also mean “the silent majority”—a term/phrase many Republicans/conservatives love quoting as it requires no tangible proof. They are always just “out there….. “

  3. Moses Herzog

    There are actually some times when the free markets really are efficient:

    I assume Rupert Murdoch must be enjoying donald trump telling everyone not to bother with masks and the entire thing is a hoax. These Republicans are genius in their political acumen, I mean losing money by pretending a virus which kills people is a practical joke being played on them. There’s nothing even minutely dysfunctional about this at all. Let’s keep voting for the orange satanic beast, this is fun!!!!!

  4. Moses Herzog

    I would drastically change my tune on Speaker Pelosi, if she manages to stick to her guns for once, and stop relenting and giving ground to Republicans. But the reason I strongly dislike her is for just that reason, she never does stick to her guns. There’s zero need to compromise with Republicans trying to keep the White House in November. It’s roughly 100 days away. Is she so dumb she thinks Republicans would meet her halfway if a Democrat was 15% behind in a reelection bid?? There’s no reason, not even to give an inch here, not one millimeter to the Republicans. They should dance to her tune or go fly a kite. . <<—it's 2 and 1/2 minutes and there's no vulgarity.

    If Pelosi can't figure this one out—that she is the winner (relatively speaking compared to Mitch and friends) if no deal is cut— she might as well have her grandkids negotiating, because they couldn’t do any worse.

  5. noneconomist

    Fake news Wall Street Journal:
    “More Farmers Declare Bankruptcy
    Despite Record Level
    Of Federal Aid”
    Don’t they know a blip when they see one?
    Et tu, Journal?

      1. pgl

        Contrast this:

        Ebola had arrived in the U.S. in late September when a Liberian man visiting family in Dallas, Thomas Eric Duncan, fell ill with the disease. The discovery set off a scramble to trace his steps—and an explosion of public recrimination and fear. “You don’t want us to panic?” Fox News host Jeanine Pirro said in a diatribe typical of the reaction on the right. “How about I don’t want us to die! Tell us the truth for once!”

        With this:

        “By the time the crisis wound down in mid-2015, Rice’s worst fears had not been realized. With Klain free to focus all of his time on Ebola, reaching deep into agencies for information and handing down marching orders, the Obama team’s shit got tighter. The disease never spread inside the U.S., while the global approach, led by Rice, helped crush it abroad. America saw just 11 cases and two deaths—fewer, Power points out in her book, than the number of Kim Kardashian’s marriages.”

        We are close to 5 million cases of COVID-19 with over 150 thousand deaths. Of course Jeanine Pirro does not object to Trump’s dishonesty and claims that we have COVID-19 contained.

      2. Barkley Rosser

        Of course, even if he goes for Harris or maybe Warren for VP, Biden will almost certainly tap Rice for a top position where she can help out with fighting the pandemic, as she did in the Obama admin even though she was not VP then.

        1. baffling

          rice seems more interested in serving in government than running for public office. the politics of campaigning does not seem to interest her. she prefers to let her work get things done, rather than win a popularity contest.

          1. pgl

            George W. Bush used to say “I get things done”. Well yea but his things were very destructive.

  6. David O'Rear

    Memo to Speaker Pelosi: Tell The Trumpet he can personally sign every single stimulus check and unemployment uplift. He’ll have Moscow Mitch on the phone so fast the Senate spin doctors will come to a dead halt.

    1. pgl

      If we get a vaccine this year bet on it being called the Donald Trump Vaccine. Of course if that put his picture on it – some kids might be scared when the nurse tries to administer to them.

    2. Barkley Rosser

      Apparently there are voters now supporting Trump because they saw his signature on those stimulus checks. Really.Some people really are that stupid.

      1. 2slugbaits

        It’s not just “some people”. It’s low information voters. And that’s Trump’s base. You see it here with MAGA hatters who are flummoxed by logarithms and don’t understand high school level statistics. There’s a reason why Trump’s base is dominated by white males without a college degree.

        1. Barkley Rosser

          It looks like you do not get it, Moses. The V is there, and if you cannot see it as others here have (and nobody aside from maybe you says it is not). But I called for it to flatten, and the CBO and most of us think it will. So the latest appearance of it apparently still going makes me wrong, or at least too soon. You do not understand this?

          1. Barkley Rosser

            And just in case you are not getting this, Moses, my being wrong is for exactly the opposite reason you think I am wrong. Which makes you super wrong.

    3. Willie

      As a bonus, all his time would be spent signing checks and he wouldn’t be able to make stupid and dishonest tweets for a month or two. It is a winner all around.

    4. Baffling

      Trump is threatening retaliation by doing exactly what pelosi wants. And she does not have to sacrifice anything to get it. Trump is demonstrating exactly how poor iof a negotiator he actually is. He is giving the other side what they want and what his side does not want to give. Amazing he and his tribe think they are winning.

  7. Sebastian

    (OT) Consumers’ Fear of Virus Outweighs Lockdown’s Impact on Business

    “Voluntary behavioral changes occurred because
    of consumers’ fears of catching the virus, researchers Austan Goolsbee and Chad Syverson show.
    They conclude that repealing restrictions is not
    a particularly powerful tool for restarting growth
    so long as individuals continue to fear infection.”

    So the President’s wrong-headed attempt to “re-open” the economy isn’t likely to give him the outcome he wants.


    1. baffling

      the results of this study have been quite apparent. the lockdown was blamed for economic distress, but many folks simply stopped going out and spending for fear of a virus we knew nothing about irregardless of a lockdown. even as the economy reopened, most of those folks stayed safely at home. the reopenings have been a failure on two fronts. one, they did not result in smoothly functioning economies like their proponents had promised-we are still DEEP in the red. second, by not enforcing strict safety guidelines during the reopening, they allowed the virus to linger and strike again, further keep worried citizens home for safety. this is stretching out the economic downturn and the trump virus continues to haunt the public. trump leadership through this has been abysmal, resulting in a worse economic contraction by lengthening the virus timeline.

  8. rjs

    speaking of trade, our June trade deficit fell $4.1 billion, or 7.5%, on a $5.9 billion decrease in our imports of nonmonetary gold; does anyone know what that’s about, or why swings in nonmonetary gold are a big factor in our foreign trade almost every month?

  9. sammy

    “Prices were in the 982 range in October 2017, midpoint in the previous harvest season. As of today, November futures are at 881.”

    It strikes me that CoRev was not that far off. Maybe 11%?

    Not bad for a commodity price prediction 2 years in the future. Most commodity traders would be jealous.

    1. noneconomist

      Two farm gurus for Sammy: Trump and CoRev, both blipping along with Sammy with their pride intact.
      Then there’s the old WS Journal yesterday, pouring gasoline–or unsold ethanol–on the ruins in too much of farm country.
      “More U.S. farmers are filing for bankruptcy as federal payments projected to reach record levels this year fall short of compensating for the coronavirus pandemic and a yearslong slump in the agricultural economy
      The Trump administration is expected to dole out a record $33 billion in payments to farmers this year, according to the University of Missouri;s Food and Agricultural Policy Institute. The funds, including those intended to help farmers hurt by trade conflicts …would push government payments to 36% of farm income, the highest share IN TWO DECADES.”
      As an agricultural Dr. Oz might say: that 11% might be an appetizing figure. Or maybe not.
      Whoever imagined that winning a trade war could be this much fun? CoRev and Sammy told us so.

    2. pgl

      But his standard for Menzie was to not be off by even a penny. Yea – commodity prices are volatile and your standard for the CoRev is to be close for a day or two? How amazingly STUPID!

  10. joseph

    sammy: “It strikes me that CoRev was not that far off. Maybe 11%?”

    Ah, we’ve gone through the stages of denial, anger, bargaining and depression and now we are on to the moving of goal posts.

    The whole point of Trump’s trade war is that we were supposed to win, not lose.

    Down just 11%? For a farmer that’s the entire difference between profit and bankruptcy. You don’t know much about farming, do you?

    (And, even worse, you neglected inflation in your calculation.)

    1. Moses Herzog

      You have to contemplate what is the true psychology involved with people. This also has a lot to do with our red hat wearers at donald trump rallies. sammy’s defense of CoRev is NOT a defense of CoRev. sammy’s defense of CoRev is an indirect defense of himself , because if CoRev is a peabrain then that means by extension sammy is also a peabrain. This is why these folks watch FOX news al the time. Not so much to have their own thoughts repeated back to them, but to have assurance their IQ number isn’t just barely above learning disabled.

      This also explains Republicans’ obsession with the word “elitist/elitists”. They have no idea even what the word means, much less that their heroes Mitch, Newt Gingrich, trump, Grassley etc fit the term near exact. They think an “elitist” is someone who tells them they need to focus in harder on objective facts, science, or read a quality newspaper 3-4 times a week from front to back. If you dare tell them there are people out there they can read and learn from instead making a decision by glancing at surface appearance—in. their mind you are an “elitist”.

      Everything should be apparent at a glance in their tiny little world. It’s not hard to fathom why trump appeals to them when viewed in this way, or why Biden wants an “oreo” idiot who was polling 7% in her home state BEFORE she quit the race, criminalizes and imprisons working blacks in her own community, labels Biden a racist—or surprising Biden is entertaining a nutjob who runs around telling people she loves Scientologists—-when he has a black woman who got a Rhodes Scholarship who could probably run the country better than he can. Biden is not looking for the most qualified black woman for the VP job. Biden is looking for the candidate who appeals to American illiterates. That’s how the media comes up with these demented terms like “the VP slot” when in fact, it’s a damned JOB with important functions, not “a VP slot”

      1. Moses Herzog

        BTW, I’ve yet to figure out, how an [person -edited MDC] who was polling 7% in her own home state and got a kick out of imprisoning blacks, gives Biden “a bump” in the polls?? Maybe there’s a “mathematical economist” in Virginia who can explain the numbers to me on that one, because it’s not computing out in MY brain.

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