Crop markets are starting the week in mixed fashion

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Improving South American forecasts seemed to depress corn futures Monday night. Reports that December Chinese imports of U.S. corn and distillers grains far exceeded year-ago rates probably supported CBOT prices to start the week, but that strength was more than offset by predictions for improved rainfall over Argentina’s main crop areas during the days ahead. March corn slipped 1.75 cents to $4.2225/bushel early Tuesday morning, while May lost 2.0 to $4.2975/bushel.

The soy complex also suffered from rainy Argentine forecasts. Argentina’s grain and soy fields didn’t get as much rain over the weekend as previously forecast, but the latest forecasts apparently imply greater precipitation prospects during the days ahead. Thus, beans and meal turned sharply lower. In contrast, rising palm oil prices in Asia sparked a big bounce in CBOT soyoil futures. March soybeans dove 19.0 cents to $12.975/bushel to start the week, while March soyoil jumped 0.48 cents to 38.22 cents/pound, and March soymeal plunged $11.2 to $423.3/ton.

The wheat markets rose slightly Tuesday morning. Wheat futures proved surprisingly firm in the face of concurrent corn and bean losses this morning. That reportedly reflected talk of improved export business lately, but traders may also have an eye on the weather, where frigid conditions are once again dominating the Midwest. Forecasts for “Polar Vortex 2” next week appear to be raising concerns about freeze damage to U.S. winter wheat. March CBOT wheat futures edged up 1.0 cent to $5.645/bushel in pre-dawn Tuesday trading, while March KCBT wheat futures added 1.75 cents to $6.25, and March MWE futures gained 1.75 to $6.195.

Nearby cattle futures posted a firm closing last Friday. After rocketing upward in chasing record cash and wholesale prices last week, live cattle futures apparently lost momentum Thursday. The Chicago market essentially spent Friday consolidating the preceding jump and settled only slightly higher. Cash and wholesale prices will likely set the tone for this week’s trading. February cattle futures settled 0.20 cents higher at 140.35 cents/pound Friday, while April futures added 0.07 to 139.30. Meanwhile, March feeder cattle futures fell 0.32 cents to 167.92 cents/pound, and May skidded 0.40 to 169.50.

Hog futures proved rather weak before the weekend. Although the cash hog and wholesale markets were stated firm to significantly higher Thursday afternoon, CME swine futures came under fresh pressure Friday. The midday quotes were mixed. The simple fact that Chicago prices are substantially above the latest quote for the CME lean hog index (cash equivalent price) probably explains the slippage. February hogs tumbled 0.70 cents to 86.17 cents/pound late Friday afternoon, and June declined 0.17 to 101.57.

Chinese news may be weighing upon cotton futures. Over the weekend, Chinese officials formally announced that they will end the governments cotton stockpiling program this year. News that ICE certificated stocks are rising may also have put a damper on New York fiber prices. March cotton sagged 0.14 cents to 86.66 cents/pound in early Tuesday trading, while July cotton slid 0.31 cents to 86.05.

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