Grain, livestock markets trade widely Friday morning

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The corn market slipped for the first time in over a week Thursday. However, it was apparently trying to resume its advance Friday morning despite a general lack of substantive news. Technicians are probably optimistic about short-term prospects, due largely to the recent March futures push above chart resistance associated with its 40 and 50-day moving averages (MAs). However, the news vacuum was interrupted when a Memphis-based analytics firm published its latest estimate for 2013 U.S. corn plantings around mid-session; they reportedly raised their forecast by 277,000 acres, which is not inconsequential. Corn futures quickly set back toward unchanged levels before stabilizing. March corn had risen 1 cent to $7.25 1/2 just before lunch, while December was trading just 1/4 cent higher at $5.86 3/4 per bushel.

In contrast to the firmness exhibited by corn futures Friday morning, the soybean market had suffered significant losses as the noon hour approached. Anticipation of the looming South American bean harvest may have played a role in this divergence, but wire service sources also cited the long weekend as the reason many bulls were seemingly evening up their positions. Some may also have been lightening up ahead of the scheduled planted acreage forecast from a prominent Memphis-based firm. Wire service sources indicated they cut their bean acreage estimate by 185,000 acres, which was nominally bullish. However, Chicago prices reacted little to that news. March beans had slipped 7 1/4 cents to $14.23/bushel by late morning, while March soyoil dropped 0.21 cents to 51.28 cents/pound and March meal fell $1.7 to $412.3/ton.

The wheat market seemed torn between the corn and soybean markets Friday, with the release of updated acreage forecasts by a private source apparently doing little to influence prices at the various wheat exchanges. Bulls would probably like to ride the ongoing drought dominating Southern Plains wheat fields to fresh highs, but the lack of fresh information limited its market influence. Wire service stories indicated that the gains posted this week are the largest since July, but that looks much less impressive when one considers the size of the losses suffered over the preceding two months. Still, the stage may be set for a follow-through surge next week. March CBOT wheat had gained 2 1/2 cents to $7.83 3/4 per bushel around mid-session, while March KCBT wheat slipped 3/4 cent to $8.36 1/4 and March MGE futures rose 2 1/2 cents to $8.71 3/4.

After having fallen sharply on negative cash news and the announcement of a Cargill plant closing Thursday, cattle futures continued their slide Friday morning. Bullish traders would probably like to think the recent breakdown has largely incorporated the bad news, but the late-morning wholesale report was not encouraging. That is, packers were apparently forced to lower their asking prices for beef again, since cutout values fell 1.18-1.84 cents from their Thursday close. Given that news and the looming three-day weekend, cattle futures seem likely to end the week on a poor note. February cattle dove 0.82 cents to 125.82 cents/pound in late-morning action, while April tumbled 0.72 cents to 130.15.

Hog futures held up well in the face of big cattle losses Thursday and continued that pattern this morning. Swine traders may be ambivalent about the hog and pork outlook from this point, since plunging cattle and beef prices could change industry perceptions concerning the comparative cheapness of wholesale pork. Conflicting reports concerning Friday morning cash market direction may also have limited the Chicago reaction. Those developments, as well as a lack of wholesale news, may be the underlying reasons CME lean hog futures were widely mixed in early trading. February hogs had fallen 0.45 cents to 85.50 cents/pound just before lunch, whereas June futures had climbed 0.35 cents to 97.00.

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