Counterparties: Inflate your turkeys

November 21, 2012

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Thanksgiving is getting more expensive. The WSJ’s Ian Berry reports that wholesale turkey prices are up 26%, on the East Coast, compared to last year. That’s far above the modest increases in other food prices.

As Ben Bernanke noted in his speech at the New York Economic Club yesterday, for most consumers, short-term commodity price spikes don’t translate into higher grocery bills. Despite “the increase in farm prices brought on by this summer’s drought”, he said consumer price increases have averaged “almost exactly 2%”. Turkey is an exception, Berry says, thanks to the peculiarities of a seasonal, capital-intensive industry loathe to expand production in the aftermath of the 2008 recession.

The problem for those of us sitting down for a family meal tomorrow is that there isn’t what economists would term a substitute good for turkey. The solution, Matt Yglesias argues, is to call your local turkey sellers’ bluff and wait until the last minute to buy. That might make you nervous, but the shopkeeper is even more stressed by how little he can charge for a whole turkey the day after Thanksgiving.

At least neither of you has to worry about whether you’ll eat a Thanksgiving dinner. That’s not true for all Americans: Reuters’ Lisa Baertlein reports that those rising food commodity prices are hurting food banks’ inventories.

The U.S. government has less need to buy key staples like meat, peanut butter, rice and canned fruits and vegetables to support agricultural prices and remove surpluses.

Most of the products from those government purchases are sent to U.S. food banks, which then distribute them to food pantries, soup kitchens and emergency shelters…Government commodity purchases through The Emergency Food Assistance Program fell by more than half to $352.5 million for the fiscal year ended September 30.

Tomorrow, then, be thankful that you have a lot to eat, of course. But the econowonks might also be thankful that commodity price inflation hasn’t (yet) made their Thanksgiving dinner more expensive. — Ben Walsh

On to today’s links:

How John Hempton spotted Autonomy’s “self-evidently suspect” financials – Bronte Capital
Marc Andreessen has some explaining to do about the Autonomy debacle – Rob Cox
HP’s explanation just makes no sense – Jonathan Weil
Please buy Jonathan Weil a basic accounting textbook and make him read it – Epicurean Dealmaker

Crime And/Or Punishment
Ex-SAC trader caught up in “largest insider trading case ever charged” – Peter Eavis

CNBC’s move into advocacy and deficit fear-mongering – Ryan Chittum

Technology will bring you personalized pricing even if you don’t want it – BBC

“Jack has a chance now to be more of a free spirit”: Jack Welch’s embarrassing retirement – Businessweek

Zillow: Home prices had their biggest jump in 7 years – Joe Weisenthal

Legal Graft
How charter schools fleece taxpayers – Timothy Noah

Mitt Romney goes to Disneyland alone – Buzzfeed

A conversation with Bill McBride of Calculated Risk – Joe Weisenthal
The author of The Black Swan has now written a baggy, dispiriting, antisocial mess of a book – David Runciman
My reviewer should have been considerably more offended by my book’s contents – Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Goldman Sachs is walking away from the biggest IPO since Facebook – Dealbook

EU Mess
Fukuyama interviews Habermas on the idea of European citizenship – Global Journal

Grey Matter
Heidegger: “If only one could think as directly as Cézanne painted.” – Telegraph

The fall of Monitor Group: “Eventually even attractive illusions come to an end” – Fortune

Good Ideas
Imagine there’s no software patents – Kevin Drum

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