By Brad Zigler
Marie Antoinette's insensitivity to peasants' lack of bread, among other things, was paid for with a trip to the guillotine. "Let them eat cake" was an impolitic thing to say during the Reign of Terror. Not so now.
Illinois farmers, in fact, want you to eat cake. It's easy to see why. Soft red winter wheat is the basis grade for futures traded on the Chicago Board of Trade. Aptly nicknamed "Chicago wheat" is a high-yielding, relatively low-protein grain used to make flour for flat breads, cakes, pastries, and crackers.
Now's the time of year when soft winter wheat prices typically firm up. In fact, some bottoming action took place in February. The May contract has knocked on the door of $5.20 more than once in the past month, but hasn't been invited in to stay.
CBOT Wheat (May '10)
The cold shoulder given to bulls, however, is now likely to warm. Upward momentum has been building throughout February as volume spikes accompanied higher prices in the wake of USDA estimates of lower acreage allocations and an overall reduction in ending stocks.
The seasonality in wheat prices can be better seen in the trend of the iPath Dow Jones-UBS Grains Subindex Total Return ETN (NYSE Arca: JJG), which tracks a benchmark comprising Chicago wheat, soybeans and corn. Between March and July last year, JJG rose nearly 38 percent, from basically the same starting point as the present market.
JJG's been bumping up against resistance at the $37 level, but the rising lows of the past month indicate the potential for a bullish breakout. An intermediate objective would be a $2 - $3 pop. If that hurdle's cleared, the $42 level—the peak reached in January following winter planting—comes into view and, ultimately, last year's seasonal peak above $47.
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