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Low wheat prices irk Kansas farmers, capping US winter wheat acreage

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Low wheat prices irk Kansas farmers, capping US winter wheat acreage
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: General view of a wheat field that shows signs of damage from drought near Sublette, Kansas, U.S., May 17, 2023. REUTERS/Tom Polansek/File Photo

By Julie Ingwersen

CHICAGO (Reuters) – U.S. farmers are about halfway done planting winter wheat for harvest in 2024, but acreage is expected to remain stable or decrease from last year because of lower prices and farmers’ disenchantment with the crop after three years of drought.

A smaller acreage base sets the stage for reduced U.S. wheat production, tightening global supplies and leaving the world more vulnerable to shortages if the flow of wheat from top global exporter Russia is disrupted by poor crop weather or war in Ukraine.

U.S. wheat exports are already projected to hit a 52-year low in the 2023/24 marketing year, reflecting strong competition from Russia and other suppliers.

A government forecast of U.S. winter wheat acreage, which typically accounts for about two-thirds of overall U.S. wheat production, will not be available until January. That will be well after the crop is planted. But analysts and farmers mostly told Reuters they expect plantings to be similar to or smaller than a year ago.

S&P Global projects plantings for 2024 at 36 million acres, down roughly 2% from a year ago, based on a monthly survey of farmers and agribusinesses.

“I think the trend would be sideways to lower for acres,” said Dan O’Brien, an agricultural economist at Kansas State University. “The psychology of recent challenging experiences, both in the market and in harvesting last year’s crop, are working against wheat acres,” O’Brien said.

U.S. plantings of winter wheat, used for bread and cookies, totaled 36.7 million acres for the 2023 harvest, a 21% expansion from a 111-year low in 2020. Over the last few years farmers have gradually expanded plantings, fueled by pandemic supply chain disruptions and a price spike after Russia invaded major grains producer Ukraine in 2022.

Last year’s plantings figure was still well below levels seen a decade ago. While the United States is still among the top five exporters, it has slipped in the global rankings. Competitive prices for corn and soybeans have also squeezed out wheat in the Plains and Midwest. Wheat futures on the Chicago Board of Trade are near three-year lows, and K.C. hard wheat futures are hovering at two-year lows.

Crop insurance policies that guarantee minimum prices for the 2024 wheat crop were set in mid-September at $7.34 a bushel for Kansas wheat, down $1.45 a bushel from last year. This soured some growers who relied on insurance money in the past after abandoning their crops due to drought.

Vance Ehmke, who farms in west-central Kansas, said he will plant less wheat this year in favor of other crops including triticale, used for cattle feed. Ehmke predicted that Kansas wheat acreage would stay about the same, but that wheat could lose acres in wetter areas of the state that can support more profitable crops like soybeans. 

Farmers hope the El Nino climate phenomenon, which occurs when surface waters in the equatorial Pacific Ocean are warmer than normal, will end years of winter droughts. Climatologists are divided on how much rain the phenomenon will bring to the southern Plains.

Wheat seed, meanwhile, is expensive and in tight supply. Three years of drought reduced farmers’ ability to reuse their own seed, so many had to buy certified seed, said Eric Woofter, a farmer and chief executive of Star Seed in Osborne, Kansas.

“It’s in short supply, and oh my God, ever so expensive,” said Chris Tanner, who farms in Norton County, in northwest Kansas. “I don’t feel like the profitability is going to be there,” Tanner said of winter wheat.

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Gold prices steady above $2,000 with nonfarm payrolls in focus

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Gold prices steady above $2,000 with nonfarm payrolls in focus
© Reuters

Investing.com – Gold prices moved little in Asian trade on Friday, sticking above key levels as markets awaited a potentially softer U.S. nonfarm payrolls reading, which comes just days before a Federal Reserve meeting. 

The yellow metal had raced to record highs at the beginning of the week, helped by a mix of rate cut bets and safe haven demand. 

But it had lost the record highs as abruptly as it had reached them, as traders locked in profits amid some uncertainty over U.S. monetary policy.

steadied at $2,030.26 an ounce, while expiring in February were flat at $2,046.05 an ounce by 01:17 ET (06:17 GMT). Both instruments had touched record highs above $2,100 an ounce on Monday, before swiftly reversing most gains.

Still, the yellow metal had now maintained the $2,000 an ounce level for nearly three weeks, indicating increased optimism over gold’s prospects in the coming months.

Nonfarm payrolls in sight, markets seek softer reading 

Focus was now squarely on data for November, due later on Friday.

The reading is expected to show further cooling in the labor market, after a drop in and data signaled some unwinding in the sector.

Any further cooling in the labor market gives the Federal Reserve less impetus to keep interest rates higher for longer-a scenario that benefits gold.

While the central bank is when it meets next week, its outlook on monetary policy, particularly on when it plans to begin trimming rates, remains uncertain. 

Bets that the were a key point of support for gold prices earlier this week. But traders scaled back those bets, given that the Fed has largely maintained its stance that rates will remain higher for longer. 

Still, the yellow metal may be poised for more strength in the coming months, especially if interest rates fall and global economic conditions deteriorate further.

A raft of recent economic readings from the U.S., Asia and the euro zone suggested that growth was set to cool in 2024.

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Factbox-Australia’s Woodside, Santos in talks for $53 billion oil-gas merger

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Factbox-Australia's Woodside, Santos in talks for $53 billion oil-gas merger
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: FILE PHOTO: View of a model of carbon capture and storage designed by Santos Ltd, at the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association conference in Brisbane, Australia May 18, 2022. REUTERS/Sonali Paul/File Photo/File Photo

(Reuters) – Australia energy companies Woodside (OTC:) and Santos Ltd said late on Thursday that they are in preliminary merger talks, in what could be the latest big deal in a wave of global consolidation the in oil and gas sector.

A potential combination of the companies, which together have a market value of about $52 billion, comes amid challenges faced by both in their domestic projects from Indigenous people as well as rising pressures of decarbonisation.

Both companies have seen their share performance lag global peers.

CHALLENGS

Woodside in October cut its its 2023 production outlook and missed third-quarter revenue estimates, while it was ordered by the Australian federal court to seek new approval to conduct seismic blasting under the seabed for its $12 billion Scarborough gas project after a legal challenge by an Indigenous woman.

Santos is contending with legal challenges from a traditional land owner from the Tiwi Islands on undersea pipeline works for its $3.6 billion Barossa gas project and has forecast lower output in 2024 as its Bayu-Undan gas field reached the end of its life and its West Australian offshore field’s output declined.

Below are key details on both companies, including production and reserves measured in million barrels of oil equivalent (mmboe):

Woodside Santos

Market cap ($ in billion) 37.39 15.56

Revenue ($ in billion)

16.9 7.8

2022

Production (mmboe) Domestic 136.6 61.3

International 21.1 41.9

Total 157.7 103.2

Proved plus probable reserves (mmboe) 3,640.3 1,745

2023-24

Production forecasts (mmboe)

183-188 (2023) 84-90 (2024)

ASSETS AND PROJECTS

Woodside

Woodside operates major liquefied (LNG) export facilities in Australia, including North West Shelf and Pluto LNG, and three floating production storage and offloading (FPSO) facilities in western Australia. The company also owns a stake in the Chevron-operated Wheatstone LNG project.

The company is involved in oil-gas joint ventures in the Bass strait and partners with Santos at Macedon, a gas field off western Australia. Woodside has been trying to sell ageing domestic oil and gas assets where production is declining and high decomissioning costs are required.

The company received approval for its Scarborough and Pluto Train 2 projects in Australia in 2021, with first LNG cargo expected in 2026.

Globally, Woodside operates in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico with three offshore platforms, as well as an offshore processing facility in Trinidad and Tobago.

In Senegal, Woodside is targeting first oil production at the Sangomar Field Development Phase 1 in 2024. Woodside has also made a final investment decision to develop the large, high-quality Trion resource in Mexico, with first oil output targeted for 2028.

Other Woodside projects include proposed hydrogen and ammonia projects H2Perth and H2TAS in Australia and another hydrogen project, H2OK, in North America.

Santos

Santos operates Gladstone LNG and holds a stake in Papua New Guinea LNG.

The company expects production at the Timor-Leste Bayu-Undan field to cease in 2025 and plans to backfill Darwin LNG with supply from the Barossa field.

Santos is the second-biggest producer of domestic gas in Western Australia and has invested in two offshore oil fields, Van Gogh and Pyrenees.

On the Australian east coast, Santos portfolio includes the Cooper and Eromanga Basins as well eastern Queensland production.

In the U.S., Santos is advancing its Pikka Phase 1 project in Alaska, expecting first oil production in 2026.

Combined

If the companies merge, they would have a 26% share of Australia’s east coast gas market.

Combined oil and gas production in 2022 for the two totaled slightly over 260 million barrels of oil equivalent (mmboe), and their total proven plus probable reserves are 5.39 billion mmboe, based on data from the companies.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) said on Thursday it would consider whether a public merger review into the impact on competition was required if the deal goes ahead.

“Given ACCC’s focus on East Coast gas, we expect a (merged company) may be a forced seller of the Cooper Basin,” Macquarie bank analyst Mark Wiseman said in a note.

($1 = 1.5154 Australian dollars)

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Oil heads for seven week decline for first time in five years

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Oil heads for seven week decline for first time in five years
© Reuters. An aerial view shows an oil factory of Idemitsu Kosan Co. in Ichihara, east of Tokyo, Japan November 12, 2021, in this photo taken by Kyodo. Picture taken on November 12, 2021. Mandatory credit Kyodo/via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS – THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDE

By Paul Carsten

LONDON (Reuters) -Oil benchmarks were on track for a seven-week decline on Friday, their first in half a decade, on worries about a supply surplus and weak Chinese demand, though prices rebounded after Saudi Arabia and Russia lobbied OPEC+ members to join output cuts.

futures were up $1.51, or 2%, at $75.56 a barrel at 1234 GMT, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude futures were up $1.42, or 2%, to $70.76 a barrel. Brent had earlier risen by $2.

Both benchmarks slid to their lowest since late June in the previous session, a sign that many traders believe the market is oversupplied. Brent and WTI are also in contango, a market structure in which front-month prices trade at a discount to prices further out.

OPEC+’s “weakening position in providing support coupled with record high US production and sluggish Chinese import figures can only mean one thing: there is an abundance of oil available, which is neatly reflected in the contangoed structure of the two pivotal crude oil benchmarks,” said Tamas Varga of oil broker PVM in a note.

Friday’s gains, meanwhile, are a “correction and nothing else,” Varga said.

Saudi Arabia and Russia, the world’s two biggest oil exporters, on Thursday called for all OPEC+ members to join an agreement on output cuts for the good of the global economy, only days after a fractious meeting of the producers’ club.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies, known as OPEC+, agreed to a combined 2.2 million barrels per day (bpd) in output cuts for the first quarter of next year.

“Despite OPEC+ members’ pledges, we see total production from OPEC+ countries dropping by only 350,000 bpd from December 2023 into January 2024,” said Viktor Katona, lead crude analyst at Kpler.

Some members of OPEC+ may not adhere to their commitments due to muddied quota baselines and dependence on hydrocarbon revenues, Katona said.

Brent and WTI crude futures are on track to fall 4.2% and 4.5% for the week, respectively, their biggest losses in five weeks.

Fuelling the market’s downturn, Chinese customs data showed its crude oil imports in November fell 9% from a year earlier as high inventory levels, weak economic indicators and slowing orders from independent refiners weakened demand.

In the United States, output remained near record highs of more than 13 million bpd, U.S. Energy Information Administration data showed on Wednesday. [EIA/S]

The market is also looking for monetary policy cues from the official U.S. monthly job report due later today, which is expected to show November job growth improving and wages increasing moderately. That would cement views that the U.S. Federal Reserve is done raising interest rates this cycle.

In Nigeria, the Dangote oil refinery is set to receive its first cargo of 1 million barrels of crude oil later on Friday, the start of operations that, when fully running at 650,000 barrels a day, would turn the OPEC member into a net exporter of fuels after having been almost totally reliant on imports.

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