Oil Drops Below $50/Gallon for First Time in 2017

Live cattle futures found some strength through tight seasonal supplies in Thursday’s trading session. April futures rose 0.5% to close at $1.06725 a pound at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, though some analysts expect a downturn soon. High wholesale beef prices have buoyed contracts even as cash sales have remained relatively steady at around $1.25, but Rich Nelson, chief strategist for brokerage Allendale Inc., says prices are likely to head south. “Considering the size of the gains in wholesale beef, the cash cattle being at a steady trade is a clear disappointment,” he said. “Once we get into April, we’re going to have this seasonal supply increase in cattle show up.” Lean hog futures for April delivery, meanwhile, lost 0.4% trade at 73.075 cents a pound. A surplus of poultry products, as a result of export restrictions after a U.S. bird flu discovery, could mean tougher retail competition for pork.

CBOT May soybean futures fall 1.3% to $10.09 a bushel, with corn sliding 0.1% to $3.72. Wheat falls 0.4% to $4.45 1/4.

Cotton futures fell Thursday following a government update on cotton supply and demand.

Cotton for May delivery lost 0.4% to end at 77.82 cents a pound on the ICE Futures U.S. exchange.

As analysts anticipated, the U.S. Department of Agriculture lowered its estimate of U.S. cotton stockpiles, saying that higher production of cotton would be offset by a boost to exports. Overall, however, the agency said that world consumption of fiber would be virtually unchanged and raised world stocks of cotton by 600,000 bales to 90.5 million bales.

Global markets are once again fixating on the price of oil after U.S. crude fell below $50 a barrel for the first time this year, in the biggest two-day selloff since June.

Oil prices extended losses Thursday, hitting a three-month low a day after a larger-than-expected buildup in U.S. crude inventories raised doubts over whether OPEC cuts will be enough to sap brimming stores of oil around the world.

Two days of a sharp selloff have broken the calmest period for oil prices in more than two years. Oil had been trading in a $4 range for about three months until Wednesday. And as it broke from that range, oil began retaking its spot at the center of the market, impacting stocks and bonds in addition to commodity futures.

In recent weeks traders had posted a record number of bets oil prices would move higher. Now investors are unwinding that crowded trade, spurred to close out some of their bullish bets because stockpile increases grew last week at about the time many expected them to end, brokers and analysts said.

U.S. crude for April delivery settled down $1, or 2%, to $49.28 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Gasoline futures recently lost 2.3% to $1.6141 a gallon. Diesel futures lost 2.2% to $1.5221 a gallon.

Natural gas prices rose Thursday, helped by cooling weather, stable production and a larger-than-expected draw from storage last week.

Natural gas is now up in seven of the past eight sessions. Prices are still down about 20% year-to-date because of a historically warm winter that sapped heating demand, but some expect big changes in the gas market–notably lower production growth and new sources of demand–to keep prices from falling much further.

Natural gas for April delivery settled up 7.3 cents, or 2.5%, at $2.974 a million British thermal units on the New York Mercantile Exchange. That puts gas up 16% since its low of the year reached just a little more than two weeks ago.

old prices retreated to a one-month low on Thursday as investors geared up for an imminent rise in interest rates.

Gold for April delivery settled down 0.5% at $1,203.20 a troy ounce on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange, its eighth consecutive sessions of losses and its longest losing streak since May 2016. Prices closed at the lowest level since Jan. 30.

U.S. stocks ticked slightly higher Thursday, marking the eighth anniversary of their lowest close during the financial crisis.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 2.5 points, or less than 0.1%, to 20858. The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq Composite both added less than 0.1%, closing at 1365 and 5839 respectively.

A native of the Texas Panhandle, Rhonda was born and raised on a cotton farm where she saw cotton farming evolve from ditch irrigation to center pivot irrigation and harvest trailers to modules. After graduating from Texas Tech University, she got her start in radio with KGNC News Talk 710 in Amarillo, Texas.