Ag markets proved rather volatile Thursday

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Corn futures were supported by USDA statements. The USDA is conducting its long-term outlook conference today and tomorrow, with preliminary 2014 acreage estimates being officially published this morning. The indicated corn plantings figure was generally perceived as being price supportive, which ultimately pushed prices slightly higher. March corn edged 2.0 cents to $4.5575/bushel Thursday, while May added 2.0 to $4.6225.

Soybeans rebounded in response to the USDA news. The soy complex seemed set to follow through on Wednesday’s late decline this morning. However, price rebounded after the USDA published its preliminary 2014 soy acreage estimate for 2014, since that fell well short of private industry forecasts. Cash slippage seemed to undercut March meal, whereas Asian palm strength again boosted soyoil values. March soybeans bounced 4.0 cents to $13.5825/bushel as Thursday’s session ended, while March soyoil rallied 0.33 cents to 40.57 cents/pound, and March soymeal tumbled $2.1 to $450.9/ton.

Weather news probably undercut the wheat markets. Talk of potential weather problems probably powered recent wheat gains. However, the latest forecasts suggest dry areas of the southern and western Plains will be blessed with modest rainfall next week. Conversely, it now looks as if Midwest temperatures won’t fall as far as previously thought next week. March CBOT wheat futures dropped 4.0 cents to $6.1625/bushel at their Thursday close, while March KCBT wheat futures skidded 0.75 cents to $6.9175, and March MWE futures sank 2.25 to $6.8175.

News of firm packers bids likely sparked Thursday’s cattle advance. Beef prices continued this week’s strong bounce Wednesday, but turned mixed at midday. Nevertheless, wire service reports indicated beef packers began this week’s cash bidding at last week’s price, thereby implying another spot price rise. April cattle futures settled 0.05 cents higher at 141.87 cents/pound Thursday, while August advanced 0.17 to 131.70. Meanwhile, March feeder cattle dipped 0.05 cents to 171.12 cents/pound, and May dove 0.47 to 172.60.

Talk of cash strength supported nearby hog futures. Wholesale weakness weighed upon CME hog values early Thursday morning, but persistent cash hog strength encouraged CME traders. A big gain on the midday pork report added to the bullish momentum. April hogs surged 0.62 cents to 97.82 cents/pound Thursday afternoon, while June moved up 0.27 at 107.77.

Thursday’s equity bounce partially offset bearish USDA cotton data. The USDA’s preliminary cotton acreage estimate came in at 11.5 million acres, thereby topping recent industry figures around 11.25. That exaggerated overnight weakness and pushed prices lower at the close. The equity markets rebounded from sizeable Wednesday losses, which appeared limit the cotton decline. March cotton fell 0.60 cents to 86.37 cents/pound at their Thursday settlement, while July cotton dropped 0.40 cents to 87.43.

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