Orange juice contracts hit new 2-year highs as Florida braces for more freezing temperatures

By Stephen Bernard, AP
Friday, January 8, 2010

OJ contracts surge again on cold-weather worries

NEW YORK — Orange juice futures contracts surged to a new two-year high on Friday following fresh concerns that cold weather in Florida could wipe out parts of the citrus crop over the weekend.

March contracts for frozen orange juice concentrate rose 10 cents, or 7.1 percent, to settle at $1.5115 a pound, marking the second time in three days the price reached two-year highs. Prices retreated Thursday after a bout of cold weather earlier in the week had minimal effect on the crop.

Orange juice prices have risen 17 percent during the past week.

Temperatures are expected to fall below freezing again in parts of Florida on Saturday and Sunday nights, bringing concerns to farmers and commodities traders. Orange fruit still hanging on trees can be ruined if temperatures fall below 28 degrees for at least four hours.

Major damage to the fresh fruit crop would send prices of frozen orange juice concentrate significantly higher. It would also likely lead to higher prices for OJ in grocery stores.

The severe chill in Florida came at the peak of the orange harvest and could cause severe damage to the crop if temperatures remain low.

Cold weather across the country has also been supporting energy prices this week.

Benchmark crude oil for February deliver rose 9 cents to settle at $82.75 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. In other Nymex trading in February contracts, heating oil rose 1.67 cents to $2.2003 a gallon and gasoline rose 2.04 cents to $2.1553 a gallon.

Metals also climbed higher Friday. Both Platinum for April delivery and Palladium for March delivery hit new 52-week highs on the same day ETFS Marketing LLC launched the first exchange-traded funds in the U.S. that actually buy and hold quantities of the two precious metals. Other commodity-based funds typically buy shares of companies that produce the metals.

Platinum rose $11.20 to settle at $1,570.60 an ounce, while palladium climbed 60 cents to $425.15 an ounce. Gold for February delivery rose $5.20 to $1,138.90.

Platinum and palladium are used for industrial purposes so futures contracts often are effected by the strength of the industrial sector. Earlier this week new reports showed rises in manufacturing activity in the U.S., China and Europe.

Investors were unfazed by a Labor Department report Friday, showing employers cut 85,000 jobs last month.

The ICE Futures U.S. dollar index, which measures the dollar against six other major currencies, fell 0.6 percent.

Soybeans continued their sharp decline for a second day as investors grab some profits ahead of an upcoming crop report being released Tuesday. The crop report is considered one of the most important pieces of market information for grains and other soft commodities trading because it provides insight into upcoming supply.

Soybeans for March delivery fell 4 cents to settle at $10.22 a bushel. Corn rose 5.5 cents to $4.23 a bushel, while wheat rose 10.75 cents to $5.685 a bushel.

Elsewhere, sugar, cotton and cocoa declined, while coffee and pork bellies rose.

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