Export Inspections report undermined the grain markets

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Corn futures were virtually unchanged late Monday morning. Prices rose in early trading in apparent response to disappointing rainfall in dry areas of Southern Brazil and Argentina over the weekend. Forecasts indicating little relief over the next two weeks probably boosted prices as well. Conversely, the poor result on the weekly Export Inspections report probably undercut the market. March corn had slipped 0.5 cents to $7.355/bushel around mid-session, whereas December rose 1.0 cent to $5.93.

South American weather news also pushed the soy complex higher Monday morning. Trader disappointment with weekend rainfall over the crop growing regions of Argentina and Southern Brazil played a large role in the early surge, as did talk of persistent dryness over the next two weeks. The weekly Export Inspections report also proved favorable for bullish interests, since the latest result easily topped industry forecasts. March soybeans jumped 17.50 cents to $14.9175 in early trading, while March soyoil had climbed 0.18 cents to 53.17 cents/pound and March meal rallied $7.5 to $435.8/ton.

Wheat futures followed the corn and soybean markets higher in early-morning trading, then turned mixed. Persistent drought over the Southern Plains is probably providing background support, but corn and bean gains caused by increasing South American dryness pulled wheat prices higher as well. However, the latest Export Inspections data proved rather disappointing, since the total posted last week, at 15.2 million bushels fell well short of forecasts in the 20-25 million bushel range. March CBOT wheat futures had inched 0.25 cents lower, to $7.6525 per bushel just before lunchtime, while March KCBT wheat had fallen 3.25 cents to $8.1875 and March MGE futures edged 0.5 cents higher to $8.5225.

Monday morning trading saw cattle futures rise sharply then retreat. The big opening surge apparently marked a bullish reaction to the February 1 Cattle inventory report, which stated the 2012 calf crop well below expectations. However, other data, particularly the number of steers outside feedlots held negative implications. News of a forthcoming Russian embargo on U.S. beef and pork, as well as the big Friday afternoon drop in cutout values probably exacerbated the subsequent setback. April cattle had risen 0.37 cents to 132.60 cents/pound by late morning, while its August counterpart had climbed 0.47 cents to 129.15. March feeder cattle had slumped 0.35 cents to 148.85 cents/pound at that point, while August had edged 0.17 cents higher to 160.25.

Hog futures proved surprisingly weak Monday morning. Talk of seasonal strength seemingly boded well for the start of weekly trading, but CME swine futures moved moderately lower. Wire service sources cited uncertain demand prospects, but we suspect news of the looming Russian import ban played a sizeable role as well. April hogs dipped 0.52 cents to 88.22 cents/pound by mid-session, while June skidded 0.27 cents to 97.50.

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