Sunday, October 10, 2010

Supply and Demand analysis of the wheat and corn markets...What else are you doing on a Sunday morning? This weeks feature: Complements!!

This article (WSJ: Harvest Shocker Rattles Wall Street) is chocked full of basic supply and demand problems, including substitutes, complements, and the overall economic concept of opportunity cost.  This entry will focus only on a primary market and its affect on complements.

The commodities market reacted to a USDA report that downgraded its projections for the coming wheat, corn and soybean harvests. 
"The U.S. Department of Agriculture sliced its harvest projections for corn, soybeans and wheat, throwing fuel on a three-month-old commodity rally and deepening worries about rising food prices. The agency's decision to cut its month-old corn projection by 3.8% startled traders, who had expected a far smaller reduction. Prices of corn-futures contracts at the Chicago Board of Trade soared Friday by their daily permissible limit of 30 cents. The corn contract for December delivery settled at $5.2825 a bushel, up 6%."

For simplicity, in the first two graphs below I grouped wheat and corn into the same broad market since both are affected in a similar way.  The first graph show the market in equilibrium before the announcement:
Supply is affected mostly by the cost of the inputs that go into producing a good, such a labor, raw materials, and other production resources consumed.  However, there is one determinant of supply that is more general and does not directly affect the cost of producing --"extraneous factors".  This is a catch-all for anything else that changes supply--weather, terrorism, asymmetrical information, etc.  This scenario probably can be classified as the latter, because the market was not expecting this type of report on the projected crop yield. 

So, the USDA is expecting a smaller harvest, which would indicate a DECREASE in supply of wheat and corn. 

Graphically this would be shown by a shift of the supply curve to the LEFT representing a DECREASE in supply. 
The market quantity decreases and the market price increases because (1) we know the quantity supplied at every price decreases (relative to the previous curve) and (2) moving along our demand curve up and to the left we can see that the quantity demanded decreases as the price increases (Law of Demand).  We are now at a new equilibrium price of "P1".  The article suggests this is good for other businesses:
""The report sent ripples across Wall Street, where prices of stocks of food companies that buy large amounts of grain fell. Chicken giant Tyson Foods Inc. slipped 7.7% Friday. Meanwhile, the stocks of companies that supply farmers, such as tractor maker Deere & Co. and fertilizer maker Mosaic Co., rose 4.8% and 6.6%, respectively.""
There are SEVERAL supply and demand affects in this one paragraph! But we will only look at one--the affect on farm equipment producers such as Deere and Co. that makes and sells agricultural harvesting equipment.
""Economists expect farmers to respond to high grain prices by planting millions more acres of corn and wheat...""
If the price of wheat/corn increases, farmers will plant and harvest more of these two commodities.  At the margins they will need more farm equipment to harvest the crops.  Farm equipment is a complement, which means it is used in conjunction with another good, in this case wheat and corn.
""Meanwhile, the stocks of companies that supply farmers, such as tractor maker Deere & Co. and fertilizer maker Mosaic Co., rose 4.8% and 6.6%, respectively.""
Graphically, in the market for "Farm Equipment" we have an existing equilibrium (the first graph) . 

An increase in demand for Farm Equipment will shift the demand curve to the RIGHT as the graph below illustrates:
The market quantity increases and the market price increases because (1) we know the quantity demanded at every price increases (relative to the previous curve) and (2) moving along our supply curve up and to the right we can see that the quantity supplied increases as the price increases (Law of Supply). We are now at a new equilibrium price "P1".

 Want extra credit? Read the article and respond with a short analysis of other (1) supply and demand problems and/or other basic economic concepts you can find...Hey, it is like a scavenger hunt!  I think I will do this for my next birthday party!!
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