Drier South American rain boosted crop futures again Friday

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Corn futures moved moderately higher Friday morning. That very likely marked a response to the latest runs of the major weather models, which suggested a high pressure ridge will reform over Southern Brazil and Argentina next week. If so, rainfall chances for the region could diminish next week, thereby hurting production prospects for the growing corn crop. The release of fresh production forecasts by a Memphis-based advisory firm had little apparent impact upon prices. March corn had risen 2.75 cents to $7.4325/bushel late Friday morning, while December climbed 3.25 cents to $5.9425.

Soybean futures lead the soy complex higher in Friday morning trading. As in the corn pit, shifting weather forecasts almost surely accounted for the broad advance. That is, after having projected increased chances for beneficial rains over the region extending from Southern Brazil through much of Argentine crop-growing area Thursday, the major weather models pointed in the opposite direction early Friday. Indeed, the forecasts are likely to drive crop market trading for the next few weeks. Revised South American crop forecasts from a Memphis-based company left the market largely unaffected. March soybeans closed had jumped 13.50 cents to $14.8175 by late morning, while March soyoil surged 0.59 cents to 53.45 cents/pound and March meal gained $3.4 to $429.8/ton.

Wheat futures also rose significantly in early Friday action. Persistent drought over the Southern Plains is probably providing background support, but strength spilling over from the corn and soybean pits seemed to power the advance pointed this morning. Bulls may also have been reacting to the tight Russian situation, where soaring wheat and flour prices are reportedly spurring talk of a temporary end to wheat import tariffs and a big grain influx. March CBOT wheat futures had advanced 7.50 cents to $7.8725 per bushel just before lunchtime, while March KCBT wheat added 5.25 cents to $8.43 and March MGE futures ascended 6.25 cents to $8.7125.

Friday morning trading saw cattle futures slip once again. Industry suspicions of relatively plentiful market-ready supplies in feedlots and weak beef prices apparently continued weighing upon the market. And while traders expect the biannual USDA Cattle inventory report to be issued this afternoon will hold bullish implications for the long-term outlook, some traders may be exiting positions beforehand. The combination of fed cattle weakness and rising corn prices very likely depressed feeder futures. April cattle dropped 0.42 cents to 132.37 cents/pound Friday morning, while its August counterpart slipped 0.20 cents to 129.12. March feeder cattle were down 0.55 cents to 149.00 cents/pound, while August had tumbled 0.40 to 159.85.

Recent signs of supply tightness boosted CME lean hog futures Friday morning. The strong cash market gains posted earlier this week, as well as the late jump in ham prices, have apparently powered the Chicago market upward. However, industry insiders expect the weekly slaughter total to exceed comparable week and year-ago levels, while direct markets quotes had fallen sharply at midday. This renders the early gains rather suspect. April hogs advanced 0.30 cents to 89.65 by mid-session, while June edged 0.17 cents higher to 98.27.

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