PRICES: Coffee Nerves

During their winter months of June, July and August, Brazilian coffeegrowers observe a time-honored ritual: they spread rumors of crop-killing frosts in hopes of pushing up coffee prices on commodity exchanges. Hence there was nothing out of the ordinary about reports of a "White Friday" last month —except that this time the stories turned out to be true. For the first time since 1943, snow fell in the southern state of Paraná, which produces half of Brazil's coffee. In neighboring São Paulo state, frost damaged 50% to 70% of the coffee trees. The effect on prices was instant. Within...

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