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Column: Chocolate too rich for Valentine's Day?

Breitinger

As romantics shopped for sweets this week, they may have been surprised by high chocolate prices.

While a holiday-driven price increase could certainly be a factor, the primary culprits are rising Asian chocolate consumption and insufficient West African cocoa production, which are reducing the supply of cocoa beans to U.S. consumers.

Cocoa prices rose Wednesday to the highest level in more than two years, to $2,961 per metric ton.

Despite high prices, some analysts expect that rising incomes in the United States and developing countries will allow consumers to keep eating more sweets, which could continue cocoa’s sweet rally.

Silver skyrockets

Silver has been languishing for weeks – until Friday, when it blasted upward by 80 cents per ounce, hitting its highest price since November.

A weak U.S. dollar and declining silver inventories contributed to the sharp rise. As the value of our paper dollar declines, investors appreciate the inherent worth of silver and other “hard” assets.

Silver is highly valued because of its unique properties as the best conductor of electricity and reflector of light. The antimicrobial qualities of silver have been identified as a potential solution to the increasing plague of antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria.

Some artists (and girlfriends) consider silver as beautiful as gold, and prefer silver jewelry, which costs less than 5 percent as much.

As the “poor man’s gold,” silver may gain in popularity because an investor can buy more than 40 ounces of silver instead of a single ounce of gold.

As of mid-morning Friday, the price of silver was $21.25, up $1.30 during the week.

High meat prices dismay diners

Pork and beef specials in restaurants may seem expensive this weekend as well, as cattle and hog prices have continued rising.

Prices for each meat jumped more than a penny per pound again this week, pushing the cost of pork and beef near all-time highs.

A nationwide shortage of beef cattle, an ongoing piglet-killing disease, and rising grain prices are all contributing to more expensive meat.

In the longer term, cattle traders are expecting beef prices to subside, but pork is expected to continue rising through the summer as the effect of the PED virus continues to manifest.

As of midday Friday, live cattle for delivery in April were trading at $1.42 per pound, while lean hogs traded for 96 cents per pound.

Walt Breitinger is a commodity futures broker in Valparaiso. He can be reached at (800) 411-3888 or www.indianafutures.com. This is not a solicitation of any order to buy or sell any market.

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