I was up at 1:30 a.m. last night, couldn't sleep.
Our baby in the womb is 23 weeks, SGA (small for gestational age), has a club foot and shrunken limbs and tummy, and swollen brain ventricles.
Being dispassionate and analytical to a fault, it was hard to comfort my Christian wife, and tell her everything would be OK.
I tried to relax by putting on CNBC to watch the Asian markets, which opened comfortably up 1.5-2.0%. At least, I thought, if medical matters pulled me away from the screen, I would not lose too much money today.
But it was hard to lay much credence in the DJIA futures, which were pointing up 140 points, ostensibly on the Spanish bank bailout news, but I figured, mainly short covering. The Nasdaq was also up 1%.
So no wonder today, we have DJIA down 143 at the close instead.
What's going on? If not Spain, then Greece. If not Greece, then Italy. If not Italy, then maybe France, tomorrow.
The truth is, the global sovereign debt overhang has not been worked off.
Papering over unpayable debt and inflating it away, as we would prefer, hit a speed bump in Europe, as 17 disparate nations cannot act as one.
And our corporate portfolio bottomed out a month ago, and has been slowly climbing in value, while energy and metals stocks plumb new depths. I should note we are still up for the year versus down for most market indices.
In the fertilizer equity space, we have been agnostic, neither selling nor buying aggressively. Since my May 17 article describing the fertilizer MLPs (here) the three names all went lower, and then recovered to down to slightly up, with Terra Nitrogen (NYSE:TNH) being the best performer. I guess the ugliest was also the most oversold.
A couple of hours ago, we saw the fair-to-excellent rating for the U.S. corn crop decline from 72% to 66%. However, the fair-to-excellent corn rating in Iowa, the biggest corn growing state, remained high at 77%. The recent flash drought conditions in the Midwest corn belt were alleviated to some degree with the recent rainfall, but remain a threat to high crop yields.
Since most pundits do not believe the USDA 166 bushel/acre estimate for 2012 corn, we expect any decline in tomorrow's June WASDE report corn crop yield to already be "in the market." Corn futures have held above $5/bushel for the new crop, and currently, I see this as a floor which probably won't be broken. But it should be noted that ethanol plant bids for fall corn are substantially below $5. Farmer margins on corn will be compressed by the fall, and this should cause some backup in nitrogen fertilizer prices for next year.
Macro concerns remain the main driver of the commodity markets. We have an OPEC meeting on Thursday, but pronunciations from that group cannot hide the fact that a strong dollar and a glut in mid-continent oil is pushing down prices. Corn is priced off gasoline and ethanol to a certain degree.
The Greek elections on June 17 will occur, and if SYRIZA, the anti-austerity party, wins a majority, there will be a couple of weeks of uncertainty before it becomes apparent whether Greece will leave the eurozone. Personally, I think Alex Tsipras (here), the leader of SYRIZA, talks a good game, but may not have the guts to pull the plug on the Greek membership in the union.
The eurozone problems and inevitable recessions have led to slow growth in China. I don't think commodities represent a particularly good place to put money, other than in trading situations.
In this environment, I prefer making 5% yields with the yield substitutes mentioned above, and taking a "wait and see" attitude on the eurozone.