Corn futures were sharply higher. After posting a new 3 month low close on Wednesday, futures rebounded higher. Futures recouped Wednesday’s losses and then some. Tightening cash markets and renewed talk of possible Chinese buying interest fueled the rally. Japanese traders also indicated that they are halting further imports of European corn due to poor quality. Since Japan is traditionally a large U.S. corn buyer, the move could translate into stronger U.S. export demand. However, this week’s export sales were disappointing at only 11.8 million bushels for the current year. May corn settled 19 ¼ cents higher at $6.21. The December contract was 13 cents higher at $5.41 ¾.

Soybean futures settled higher on Thursday. Prices surged in early trading but then backpedaled into the close to register modest gains. Export sales news was the principal catalyst behind the day’s advance. USDA issued its weekly export sales report, and for the latest week, sales totaled a very large 1.2 million tonnes. USDA also announced that China was an overnight buyer of 110,000 tonnes of old-crop soybeans. China took advantage of Wednesday’s selling to snap up more of last year’s crop. May futures closed 8 cents higher at $14.15 3/4 while November gained 4 3/4 cents at $13.42 1/2.

Wheat futures finished higher Thursday. Once again the grain complex was trading pretty much in sync on better news for the outside markets, only today the unified trend is up. Weekly export sales were within the range of expectations, showing that U.S. wheat remains competitive in world markets with the steady decline in values recently. But weather forecasts continue mostly favorable and seasonally, the trend is weaker into May in the absence of weather scares. CBOT May closed 14 cents higher at $6.24 ¾; KCBT May was 11 1/2 cents higher at $6.37 1/2; MGE May was 9 1/4 cents higher at $8.09 1/4.

Cattle futures ended higher Thursday. Cash trade is unfolding at mostly $122 per cwt, about steady with last week. Steady cash trade was seen as positive along with further gains in the beef market. Beef prices are up $7.50 to $10 from last week suggesting that beef demand is on the mend. Weekly beef export sales were also strong. USDA will release the monthly Cattle on Feed report on Friday afternoon. The report is expected to show cattle on feed up 2% from a year ago. June cattle futures settled $1.02 higher at $115.85. August was 60 cents higher at $118.75.

Lean hog futures closed higher on Thursday. Hog futures saw a rebound on Thursday as most contracts gains back at least part of the ground lost on Wednesday. Short-covering was one reason for the price rally as traders took profits a little ahead of the weekend. Higher corn prices were also supportive for the hog market. But prices for hogs and for pork in cash markets remain depressed and improvement in cash markets will be required for any improvement in hog futures to be sustained. The May contract closed up $1.23 at $88.48 and June was $1.43 higher at $88.78.