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Column: Cyprus crisis ails Euro

Breitinger

The banking system in Cyprus continues to totter near collapse, as Cypriot banks try to figure out a way to make up for deep losses they suffered by investing customer deposits in Greek bonds.

Cyprus has been pledged bailout funds from the European Union, but it is required to come up with as much as $7.54 billion in matching funds on its own.

So far, a variety of plans to come up with the money have failed, including hopes to sell off natural gas reserves to Russia, seizing up to 10 percent of investor bank deposits or to nationalize pension funds.

Banks in Cyprus have been closed since March 16, and some analysts fear that one resolution of this crisis could be that Cyprus leaves the Eurocurrency.

Although the island country has a population of less than 1 million, there are fears that Cyprus' exit from the Eurozone could set off a domino effect causing other indebted countries such as Spain, Italy and Greece to do the same.

During the last week, the euro currency tumbled to a four-month low, hitting $1.2852 on Wednesday. In the last two months, the currency has dropped in value by more than 7 cents (- 5.1 percent).

Natural gas explodes higher

With slowing production and higher demand, natural gas prices have soared upward in the last few weeks.

Recently, unseasonably cold weather has increased consumption of natural gas by U.S. households to heat their homes.

Additionally, the outlook for gas production has turned downward as the number of U.S. natural gas drilling rigs has dropped by a third since last year. Stronger consumption and lower production have caused U.S. natural gas reserves to drop more than 20 percent from a year earlier.

Natural gas prices were at $4 per million British thermal units, up more than 80 cents (+ 25 percent) duringt the last five weeks, and double the price since last year.

Corn up on supply concerns

Concerns about low corn stockpiles pushed prices to a six-week high. Market analysts are citing stronger demand from ethanol plants, which use corn to make the fuel additive.

The U.S. has lower-than usual corn stockpiles because of last year's drought and ensuing small harvest. As of midday Friday, corn for May delivery was trading at $7.25 per bushel.

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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