Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
-William Butler Yeats, The Second Coming
Setting aside its religious imagery, the opening stanza of The Second Coming remains one of my favorite go-to sources for "uh oh" language in my writing.
In conversation at IFTF this morning, a reference to a profound oddity in crop markets led to the coining of the phrase "Yeats Signals," a play on the IFTF term "weak signals" (referring to subtle indicators of big changes). The profound oddity is this:
Whatever the reason, the price for a bushel of grain set in the derivatives markets has been substantially higher than the simultaneous price in the cash market.
When that happens, no one can be exactly sure which is the accurate price in these crucial commodity markets, an uncertainty that can influence food prices and production decisions around the world. [...]
Market regulators say they have ruled out deliberate market manipulation. But they, too, are baffled. The Commodity Futures Trading Commission, which regulates the exchanges where these grain derivatives trade, has scheduled a forum on April 22 where market participants will discuss these anomalies and other pressure points arising in the agricultural markets.
This simply should not be happening, and yet it is. As an indicator of major instabilities in what had been structurally stable (if not always predictable) markets, it's a big one. Big enough that it wouldn't take much to imagine this as a sign of a major financial crisis in the global food market -- something with profound economic and health implications for everyone, including the rich countries.
It seems to me that we've been seeing more than our fair share of Yeats Signals lately.