Ag markets diverged significantly Wednesday afternoon

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The Wednesday morning combination of equity losses and U.S. dollar gains seemed bearish for the agricultural markets, but those posted mixed reactions. The negative economic implications of those developments apparently depressed nearby corn futures, but the prospect of persistent weather-driven delays to corn plantings across the Corn Belt likely supported the deferred contracts. May corn dipped 2.75 cents to $6.605/bushel at the Wednesday close, while December surged 6.25 cents to $5.4725.

The same forces affecting corn futures seemed to undercut soybeans Wednesday. That is, the diminished demand implied by declining equity indexes and the concurrent dollar rally weighed upon the nearby soy contracts early in the day. However, persistent cash market firmness and rumors of a large Chinese purchase boosted soybean futures later in the day. Meanwhile, delayed corn plantings may boost acreage that ultimately gets planted to soybeans, so it was not terribly surprising to see the deferred soy contracts under downward pressure. May soybeans climbed 8.5 cents to $14.2225/bushel Wednesday afternoon, while May soyoil jumped 0.42 cents to 49.39 cents/pound, and May soybean meal rose $5.7 to $407.3/ton.

Wheat futures proved quite volatile Wednesday before ending the day in decidedly mixed fashion. Prices declined early, then surged in apparent response to renewed talk of frost damage to winter wheat and greatly delayed spring wheat plantings in the Northern Plains. However, the benchmark Chicago contract apparently failed at a key technical resistance level, which then prompted a big wave of selling. May CBOT wheat futures rose 1.5 cents to $7.0375/bushel at its Wednesday afternoon settlement, while May KCBT wheat inched up just 0.25 cent to $7.42 and May MGE futures slid 1.5 cents to $8.0825.

Cattle futures proved surprisingly strong Wednesday, especially when viewed in light of concurrent equity losses and U.S. dollar strength, because those developments are often viewed as negative for beef demand from the domestic and export sectors, respectively. Talk of wholesale strength very likely sparked the rise, with technicians apparently jumping on the bullish bandwagon after nearby futures topped chart resistance on their way higher. June cattle rallied 1.37 cents to 121.82 cents/pound at its Wednesday settlement, while December added 1.10 cents to 126.97. May feeder cattle futures moved 0.85 cents higher to 140.90 cents/pound, and August gained 1.02 cents to 147.50.

Hog futures also climbed substantially Wednesday. Belated talk of seasonal strength may have boosted the market in the face of equity losses, dollar gains and morning reports of cash weakness. In fact, the morning mandatory pork stated cutout 1.74 cents higher at 83.61 cents/pound. Bulls are probably looking for much more of the same during spring. May hog futures gained 1.32 cents to 88.12 cents/pound around midday Wednesday, while the June contract climbed 1.32 cents to 90.35.

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