Cotton diverged from the other crop markets Monday

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Corn futures declined again Monday despite a modest midsession bounce. The temporary advance seemingly stemmed from the simultaneous release of the 10-year agricultural forecast from the USDA and the weekly export inspections report. The former featured a significant cut in expected domestic corn plantings this year, while the latter result proved relatively large when compared to the previous weekly figure. The fact that bulls could not sustain the rally suggests further downside potential. March corn settled 6.75 cents lower, at $7.0225/bushel, while December fell 4.5 cent to $5.5875.

Soybean futures continued their recent breakdown Monday, with market observers citing persistent weakness stemming from the February 8 WASDE report for a portion of the drop. The USDA boosted its forecast of global soybean carryout for 2012-13 over 1% on that release, which substantially exceeded expectations. The industry may also have reacted negatively to moderate improvements in short-term weather forecasts for dry Argentine soybean fields. March beans had fallen 21.0 cents to $14.315 late Monday, while March soyoil dropped 0.19 cents to 51.24 cents/pound, while March meal sank $9.4 to $413.0/ton.

Wheat futures proved steady-weak early Monday morning, but turned decidedly lower later in the day. The decline was reportedly driven by weekend rains over portions of the Winter Wheat Belt; a private forecast suggesting the spring precipitation outlook is better than many expect may also have weighed upon prices. Finally, the large soybean breakdown seemingly dragged wheat lower as well. March CBOT wheat futures tumbled 14.75 cents to their $7.415/bushel settlement, while March KCBT wheat dived 11.5 cents to $7.8875, and March MGE futures lost 10.5 cents to $8.26.

After opening weakly Monday morning, CME live cattle futures bounced moderately later in the day. We suspect talk of a lengthy Russian ban on U.S. product weighed rather heavily upon prices late last week and again this morning. However, the decline seemingly lost its downward momentum, which may have prompted the subsequent rebound. Technical buying may also have entered the market when the most-active April contract came back from fresh 8-month lows. April cattle ended the day 0.22 cents higher at 130.35 cents/pound, while August closed 0.02 cents lower at 126.45. Meanwhile, March feeder cattle finished 0.20 cents lower, at 144.80 cents/pound, while August jumped 0.97 cents to 157.67.

Hog futures were generally mixed to slightly higher Monday. News of the Russian embargo on American meat probably weighed upon prices somewhat, but the realization that Russia is a much smaller player in the pork market may have prompted the subsequent bounce. We wonder if anticipation of a last-gasp mid-winter bounce boosted Chicago prices. Conversely, afternoon quotes pointing to dropping cash values were not good news for bulls. April hogs had risen 0.32 cents to 86.45 cents/pound by mid-session, while June gained 0.02 cents to 94.52.

After trading in mixed fashion in early morning action, cotton futures rallied in late morning and ended their Monday session trading quite firmly. We suspect two tentative U.S. acreage forecasts, one from the National Cotton Council and another from the long-term outlook published by the USDA this morning, sparked the late advance. Both implied major reductions in domestic cotton plantings this spring. Big cutbacks have been anticipated, but these latest figures may have been even smaller. March cotton had risen 0.25 cents to 82.92 cents/pound by the Monday-afternoon close, while December had jumped 0.92 cents to 83.66.

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