Grain, livestock markets move generally lower on Thursday

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The corn market had dipped early Thursday morning prior to the release of the weekly Export Sales report from the USDA. The official figure came in at 247,000 tonnes, which virtually matched the upper end of the forecast range between 150,000 and 250,000 tonnes. The CBOT market initially reacted well to the news, which was the best weekly export figure in two months. However, the result fell far short of comparable rates from years past; that may have caused the subsequent reversal. The simple fact that nearby futures had risen for nine consecutive sessions very likely played a big role in the setback as well. March corn ended the day having dipped 6 1/2 cents to $7.24 3/4, while December fell 5 3/4 cents to $5.86 1/2.

Soybean sales proved very strong last week, as exemplified by the fact that the result of the latest USDA report, at 1.28 million tonnes easily topped predictions in the 750,000-950,000 tonne range. In addition, the USDA announced soon thereafter that private sellers had sold 240,000 tonnes for 2013-14 delivery to unknown destinations over the past few days. Bullish traders proved unable to sustain the immediate bullish reaction to the export news; wire service reports blamed widespread anticipation of a record Brazilian crop for the slippage. The concurrent breakdown in cattle futures probably didn’t help the soymeal market, whereas news that India is set to impose an import tariff upon crude palm oil exports seemingly supported soybean oil, since they already tax it upon import. March beans closed 6 1/4 cents lower at $14.30 1/4 per bushel, while and March meal fell $5.1 to $414.0/ton, whereas March soyoil climbed 0.18 cents to 51.49 cents/pound

Bullish wheat traders were probably disappointed by the Thursday morning USDA export data, since the latest result, at 284,900 tonnes fell well short of the forecast range (between 459,000 and 650,000 tonnes). Actually, the industry may have been pleasantly surprised by the spring wheat sales total, since the Minneapolis market held up better than did its Chicago and Kansas City counterparts. Renewed talk of drought over the Southern Plains may also have offered support, but it did not prevent a general move downward. Finally, the markets may simply have been due for a setback after four consecutive daily increases. March CBOT wheat settled 2 1/2 cents lower at $7.81 1/4, while March KCBT wheat tumbled 5 1/2 cents to $8.37/bushel and March MGE futures slipped 1 1/2 cents to $8.70.

The cattle market almost surely disappointed bullish interests early this week, with the drop in cash prices and the February futures drop below the pivotal 130-cent levels being especially discouraging. Still, Chicago prices seemed set to stabilize Thursday morning, possibly due to trader ideas that the breakdown had largely run its course. Unfortunately for those bulls, the ongoing downtrend was greatly exacerbated by news that Cargill plans to close a Texas beef processing plant due to poor margins. That implies diminished packer competition for fed cattle over the short term. Bulls might reasonably that a potential packing industry return to profitability will spur them to big more aggressively for finished cattle at that time; that probably will not happen quickly. February cattle plunged 1.65 cents to 126.60 cents/pound Thursday, while April tumbled 1.57 cents to 130.87.

Hog futures offered a significant contrast to the weakness in the cattle pit Thursday morning. And while the cash hog and wholesale pork markets have not advanced all that substantially lately, they have certainly proven firmer than their cattle/beef counterparts. Morning reports indicated considerable strength at the direct markets west of the Mississippi River, while the mid-morning USDA report implied wholesale prices were firming. Whether the market can sustain its strength in the face of dropping cattle prices is very much open to question, particularly after the Cargill announcement of a plant closing. February hogs ended the Thursday CME session having risen 0.75 cents to 85.95 cents/pound, while June futures settled unchanged at 96.65.

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