Milk Prices First to Rise as Drought Spreads

Morning Business Memo

The price of soybeans and corn hit a new high - as the devastating heat and drought takes its toll of farmers' fields. Soybean futures rose more than 2.5 percent yesterday alone. They've soared 40 percent this year. Wheat prices are at their highest levels in more than four years. The drought now covers more than half the continental US. More cuts in official crop estimates for this year are expected.

How will the drought hit consumers? Supermarket prices for some foods may rise, but it's not yet clear how big the increase will be. Milk and cheese may be more expensive soon. Dairy goods are among the first to be affected, because cows produce make less milk. But right now - says USA Today, "milk prices are actually the lowest they've been in 18 months because of surpluses built up over an ultra-mild winter and spring. In March 2011, wholesale milk sold for $19.60 per hundred pounds. Last month, it was $16.10, according to USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service figures." Meat prices are likely to rise later this year. The grain price increases will have some impact on consumers, but they make up a relatively small share of processed food costs.

Older Americans have been hit hard by the foreclosure crisis. More than 1.5 million older Americans have lost their homes, according to a new report by AARP. Millions more are at risk. Older African Americans and Hispanics are most affected.

The LIBOR rate rigging investigation widens. The Financial Times reports regulators are focusing on four of Europe's biggest banks as they look into attempts to manipulate rates. In testimony before Congress this week, Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke criticized how the LIBOR rate was fixed. The scandal has led to calls for an overhaul of how rates are set. The LIBOR system affects the cost of mortgages, student loans, derivatives and many other financial products.

Europe's debt crisis: Spain paid high interest rates to sell about $3.67 billion in medium-term today. The rate on 5 year debt rose to 6.46 percent - nearly a full percent more than during the last auction two weeks ago. Spain's Parliament debated a package of sales tax hikes and civil servant pay cuts that have triggered daily protests. Treasury Minister Cristobal Montoro pulled no punches as he launched the debate. A day after saying "there is no money" to pay civil servant wages because recession and a jobless rate of nearly 25 percent are sapping tax revenue, he said Spain simply cannot go deeper into debt.

Richard Davies Business Correspondent ABC NEWS Radio

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