Ag markets were generally firm Wednesday night

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Corn futures firmed Wednesday night. Little news concerning corn emerged overnight, although one might credit news of sizeable purchases by a South Korean firm for encouraging grain traders. Still, traders are probably acting based upon technical and pragmatic considerations, particularly the fact that nearby March corn is currently trading in a pivotal area on the charts. March corn edged up 0.5 cent to $4.2625/bushel early Thursday morning, while May gained 0.5 to $4.34/bushel.

The soy complex still seems to be reacting to the bullish NOPA crush report. Talk of strong export demand and hot, dry conditions in Argentina boosted the soybean sector Wednesday, but the late surge was fueled by the NOPA crush report, since it stated the December crush at a record high. The likelihood that the industry is crushing for meal likely supported that product and seemed to depress oil in overnight action. March soybeans rose 2.75 cents to $13.2075/bushel in pre-dawn Thursday trading, while March soyoil skidded 0.08 cents to 37.91 cents/pound, and March soymeal inched $1.3 higher to $435.8/ton.

Export news may also be supporting the wheat markets. In addition to the corn/wheat purchase made by a South Korean firm, Japan and Tunisia made significant wheat purchases last night. And while those may not include U.S. grain, they reminded traders that global demand remains quite vigorous. When combined with concurrent bean gains, it wasn’t terribly surprising to see wheat prices rising as well. March CBOT wheat futures rose 0.25 cent to $5.68/bushel as Thursday dawned over Chicago, and March KCBT wheat futures moved up 0.75 cent to $6.2125, while March MWE futures was steady at $6.14.

Spiking cash and wholesale prices sent cattle futures to fresh high again last night. Cash cattle prices in the Southern Plains jumped to the $141-$142 area Wednesday. That news was followed by the afternoon beef report indicating fresh records there as well. CME prices seem unlikely to peak until those markets show signs of topping. February cattle futures climbed 0.62 cents to 140.05 cents/pound in early Thursday trading, while April futures ran up 0.45 to 139.40. Meanwhile, March feeder cattle futures rallied 0.25 cents to 168.27 cents/pound, and May advanced 0.32 to 170.22.

The hog and pork complex are trying to follow cattle and beef higher. The cash hog markets were quoted mixed to higher Wednesday afternoon and while pork cutout fell significantly, the drop was much smaller than indicated at midsession. Those developments encouraged hog futures to again follow the cattle market higher last night. However, February hogs slipped 0.05 cents to 86.55 cents/pound just before dawn Thursday, while June was unchanged at 101.20.

Cotton traded around unchanged levels Wednesday night. Cotton futures posted a surprising surge Wednesday. There was little news obviously driving the rise, but it may have marked a response to large fines levied upon two cotton trading firms by the CFTC. It’s speculated that they were underreporting cotton shipments, since that would also explain why the USDA boosted its export forecast on last Friday’s WASDE report despite prior weekly shortfalls. March cotton rose 0.18 cents to 84.97 cents/pound just after the New York sunrise Thursday, while July cotton added 0.07 cents to 84.73.

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