Ag markets diverged somewhat to end this week's trading

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The corn market defied bearish news to end the week higher. After dipping to fresh lows Thursday, traders were probably looking for continued corn weakness. However, despite news that China had rejected more U.S. corn shipments last week, a disappointing result on the weekly Export Sales report and a increased private estimate of the 2013 U.S. crop, corn futures ended the week rather strongly. March corn futures closed 3.0 cents higher at $4.235/bushel Friday, while May added 2.75 cents to $4.3175/bushel.

Soybeans rallied despite a bearish industry report. The soy complex opened firmly Friday in apparent response to active short-covering. The weekly Export Sales report also proved quite supportive and seemed to offset the negative impact of a private industry estimate pointing to a larger 2013 U.S. bean crop. Asian palm oil weakness seemingly dragged soyoil futures downward. March soybeans edged up 1.25 cents to $12.7125/bushel at their Friday close, while March soyoil slid 0.20 cents to 38.60 cents/pound, and March soymeal bounced $0.8 to $407.1/ton.

The wheat markets staged a sizeable rebound Friday. The wheat markets rebounded from long-term lows Friday, with widespread short-covering apparently playing a big role in the rise. The weekly Export Sales data was not helpful. Great Plains temperatures are expected to fall below zero degrees Fahrenheit early next week, which raised concerns about potential frost damage to winter wheat. March CBOT wheat futures surged 8.75 cents to $6.0575/bushel at their Friday settlement, while March KCBT wheat futures ran 11.25 cents to $6.425, and March MWE futures lifted 5.25 to $6.305.

Renewed beef strength boosted cattle prices Friday. Cattle futures turned decisively higher Thursday in response to news of a fresh upward push in country prices and forecasts for arctic weather over the Great Plains early next week. Yesterday’s wholesale weakness seemed to cap early gains, but the midday data proved quite supportive, thereby opening the door to fresh CME gains. February cattle futures rallied 0.67 cents to 136.30 cents/pound at their Friday settlement, while April futures ran up 0.77 to 136.57. Meanwhile, March feeder cattle futures jumped 1.10 cents to 168.10 cents/pound, and May surged 0.75 to 169.70.

Cash and wholesale weakness undercut hog futures. CME hog prices recovered from surprising late-December weakness Thursday, due in part to midsession reports indicating substantial cash and wholesale strength. However, the late afternoon reports and their midday Friday counterparts proved much less favorable, which largely explains the late-week decline. February hogs settled 0.40 cents lower at 86.67 cents/pound Friday afternoon, while June sank 0.07 to 101.00.

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