Good morning from the business news desk of the Star Tribune.Markets in Asia and Europe were mixed overnight. The news that German Chancellor Angela Merkel won a third term gave a lift in Europe and was credited with boosting U.S. stock futures before the market opened. Now about 45 minutes into the trading day, U.S. markets are down slightly. Apple is up almost 5% after putting out a statement that it sold 9 million new iPhones 5s and 5c since Friday, well above the 5 million to 6 million that analysts forecast.
Farmers in Minnesota and throughout the Midwest are beginning the fall harvest of corn and soybeans, the two biggest crops. We had a full rundown yesterday. On commodities markets this week, hogs are being closely watched as a glut of swine are expected to hit the market after the late summer heat kept many farmers from selling.In the Star Tribune today is a look at the Tom Petters saga five years after it began. The anniversary of the raid that led to Petters arrest and the uncovering of a $3.6 billion Ponzi scheme is tomorrow. Be sure to check out story and video with reporter David Phelps.
Coffee Grinds LowerCoffee prices fell to $1.11 per pound last week, the lowest price in over four years. Prices have been in decline as US inventories of coffee swell to levels not seen since 2009. In addition to already large inventories, large crops could be hitting the global market soon. The world’s largest coffee producer, Brazil, is benefiting from rains during the coffee trees’ flowering stage that should boost production of next year’s crop. Meanwhile, Vietnam is beginning its harvest of the world’s second largest crop, which could put near-term pressure on prices. For now, baristas and home brewers should benefit from lower prices, which are down 64% from the high of $3.06 made in 2011.
Natural Gas RisesNatural gas prices lifted to a two-month high last week on news that inventories are currently 5% lower than last year. Unseasonably warm weather in September has increased demand for air conditioning and electricity, much of which is ultimately generated by natural gas. This strong demand has helped to keep natural gas inventories lower, helping prices rise. Other traders are eying weather in the Gulf of Mexico, home to 5% of US natural gas production. Although the Gulf of Mexico has largely been spared from significant damage this hurricane season, there is still potential for tropical storms to affect the offshore oil and natural gas production rigs scattered throughout the Gulf.
Opening Belz links:
Guy used to make $100k a year, now flips burgers – Bloomberg
Americans might have to get used to “jobless recoveries” – Washington Post
Signs show mortgage requirements may be easing – LA Times
Schafer: Obamacare is already slowing health care cost increases – StarTribune
Q and A with Elissa Hansen, young econ dev specialist in Duluth – News Tribune
Mortgage companies move into MN as housing improves – StarTribune
Metro area economies in the Upper Midwest mostly grew fast in 2012 – Fed Gazette
Is oil twice as big an industry as ag in North Dakota? Not so fast – Fargo Forum
Oh wait, Janet Yellen can be combative too – WSJ
The largest food fraud in U.S. history involved honey laundering – Businessweek
New Whole Foods store rounds out booming North Loop – StarTribune
It appears more likely that the FAA will take another step toward loosening those (silly?) rules restricting the use of electronics on planes. Even during takeoffs and landings, guidelines are expected to allow reading e-books or other publications, listening to podcasts, and watching videos. Ban on making cell phone calls, as well as sending and receiving emails and text messages, is expected to remain in place.
Microsoft has introduced new versions of its two Surface tablet computer models, but they differ little from the original versions that sold poorly. The New York Times said it was “a sign that the company still believes in its vision of devices that blend the benefits of tablets and laptop computers.” The Surface 2 starts at $449 and uses a down-sized version of Windows. The Surface Pro 2 starts at $899 and uses a complete version of Windows. Both will be in stores Oct. 22.
Here’s an early analysis of Microsoft’s new Surface tablet computers from Computerworld magazine: “Microsoft's Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 have gotten some nice hardware refreshes, but they're still priced too high -- so high that it's unlikely they'll seriously compete against the iPad or Android tablets,” the magazine’s Preston Gralla wrote. Surface 2 starts at $449 and Surface Pro 2 starts at $899.
Stocks fell again today, though not as much as they did on Friday. Even so, the declines over the last few days have wiped out the gains that happened on Wednesday after the Fed decided to keep its bond-buying stimulus program going.
For tomorrow's newspaper, we've got an interesting feature coming about how a Medina-based hardware store survives against the big box competition. Economics reporter Adam Belz is looking into Minnesota-China trade after attending a speech on the topic at the Economic Club today. Energy reporter David Shafer has looked into the fire at the St. Paul refinery.
Tomorrow, look for coverage of General Mills' annual meeting. We'll have some live action from the meeting itself and updates from Mike Hughlett through the day.