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Market Eyes Reports of Disease in Spring Wheat

August 16, 1993

Undated (AP) _ The wet summer has caused an outbreak of diseases in the North Dakota spring wheat crop and awakened concern on the Chicago Board of Trade Monday.

The September wheat contract advanced 8 1/2 cents before half the gains were erased.

On other markets, energy futures were lower, precious metals higher and livestock and meats were mixed.

The wet summer is being blamed for a fungus infection that produces a substance, vomitoxin, that is harmful to breeding swine and a blight called septoria that can keep the kernel from filling out and reduce yield.

″It could be serious, but we just don’t know yet,″ said Steve Freed, research director in Chicago for ADM Investor Services Inc.

The diseases have turned up in early samplings of the grain and experts in North Dakota say they don’t know how widespread they are. Neither disease is considered harmful to humans.

The Agriculture Department’s harvest estimate for spring wheat was put at 687 million bushels as of Aug. 1, down only slightly from 699 million bushels projected a month earlier.

Now, some estimates foresee a 20 percent yield reduction in some parts of the spring wheat region, which includes North Dakota and to a lesser degree Minnesota, Montana, South Dakota.

Jim Helm, extension agronomist for North Dakota State University in Fargo, said there could be a 20 percent loss throughout the region because of disease and bad weather.

More than 80 percent of the crop has yet to reach maturity at a time when the harvest should be well underway, said Neal Fisher, deputy administrator of the North Dakota Wheat Commission in Bismarck.

″Very little wheat has been harvested so far,″ he said, ″probably less than 10 percent.″

Wheat for delivery in September was 4 1/4 cents higher at $3.11 a bushel; September corn was 2 1/4 cents lower at $2.36 1/2 a bushel; September oats were 1 cent lower at $1.40 1/4 a bushel; and November soybeans were 2 1/2 cents lower at $6.51 1/2 a bushel.

Falling gasoline and heating oil futures led crude oil below the $18 level on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

The products enjoyed a runup last week, but then turned lower, said Tom Bentz, energy director in New York for Quantum Financial Services.

″The decline continued today, mostly a technical selloff,″ he said.

Light, sweet crude oil for delivery in September was 28 cents lower at $17.86 a barrel; September heating oil was 0.79 cent lower at 52.81 cents a gallon; September gasoline was 0.58 cent lower at 55.64 cents a gallon; and September natural gas was 6.2 cents higher at $2.357 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Precious metals futures advanced on New York’s Commodity Exchange as the dollar skidded against the yen and other major currencies.

″The market was down big time last week and was due for a bounce,″ said Tom Griffo, an analyst in New York with Cargill Investor Services Inc.

The October gold contact was $3.80 higher at $374.50 a troy ounce; and September silver was 13 cents higher at $4.75 a troy ounce.

Livestock and meat futures were mixed on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.

Cattle for delivery in August were 0.05 cent higher at 74.80 cents a pound; August feeder cattle were 0.32 cent lower at 88.20 cents a pound; August hogs were 0.52 cent higher at 50.57 cents a pound; and August pork bellies were 0.13 cent higher at 43.35 cents a pound.

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