Deere & Co. (DE) could be among the big losers in a China trade war as Beijing targets U.S. agricultural commodities, but the prospect of lower prices also boosted Hormel (HRL) and other food companies that could see lower costs.


China said on Wednesday that it would slap tariffs on $50 billion worth of American imports, including soybeans, wheat, corn, cotton and other agricultural commodities. China imported $14 billion worth of soybeans from the U.S. last year.

A range of agricultural commodity prices, including soybeans and corn, fell on fear that lower sales to China would create slack.

If the American farmers who buy Deere equipment are hurt by China tariffs, they’ll be slower to replace or upgrade old Deere equipment.

On the flip side, weaker demand from China would hold crop prices lower. Hopes for cheaper corn, wheat and other commodity prices lifted packaged food companies, while the prospect of cheaper soybeans, which are mostly used for animal feed, not human consumption, gave IBD’s Food-Meat Products industry group a big boost.

Hormel stock finished 4.8% higher on the stock market todayKellogg (K) rose 2.5%, General Mills (GIS) 2.4%, Conagra Brands (CAG) 2.3% and Flowers Foods (FLO) 1.7%. The packaged food sector got slammed two weeks ago when General Mills cut its earnings outlook, citing higher input prices.

Meanwhile, shares of Deere, which makes tractors, combines, harvesters and other agricultural equipment, closed down 3%.

Still, food companies aren’t immune to a China trade war. Tyson Foods (TSN) got hit in recent days after China imposed 25% tariffs on imports of pork in retaliation for President Trump’s steel and aluminum tariffs. But Tyson bounced back 2.3% on Wednesday.

China’s tariffs aren’t a done deal. They won’t take effect unless President Trump follows through on his threat of hitting China with 25% tariffs on $50 billion in high-tech imports.

The Trump tariffs won’t take effect for at least 30 days, giving U.S. businesses a chance to comment as negotiations with China proceed.

The potential economic hit to American farmers might help speed along negotiations if Trump fears that Republicans could suffer at the ballot box from a trade war.


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