Corn futures responded surprisingly well to the weekly USDA Export Sales report Thursday, since the data seemed neutral-bearish, particularly for old crop values. Nearby futures rallied significantly soon thereafter, but set back toward unchanged levels later in the day. Wire service sources cited tight country conditions and firm cash prices as supporting the Chicago market. Bulls may also be expecting cool, wet conditions to force some acreage to shift from corn to beans. May corn had risen 2.5 cents to $6.5125/bushel at its Thursday close, while December inched 0.5 cent lower to $5.44.

The weekly USDA Export Sales report appeared somewhat supportive of soybean futures Thursday, since the results came in toward the upper end of pre-report forecasts. Strong soymeal sales probably boosted CBOT prices as well. Tight country markets and firm prices also seemed moderately bullish for prices. However, the idea that the latest rains will further delay spring plantings and shift corn acreage into soybeans seemed to weigh upon deferred futures. May soybeans closed 10.25 cents higher at $14.02/bushel Thursday, while May soyoil dipped 0.28 cents to 49.77 cents/pound, and May meal edged $2.1 higher to $395.0/ton.

Wheat futures also rallied in reaction to the weekly Export Sales data Thursday, since old crop sales topped forecasts and new crop commitments came in near the upper end of the predicted range. Weather also seems to be playing a substantial role in the wheat markets at this point. The moisture provided by the system sweeping across the country at this point will be very welcome everywhere, but cold Southern Plains temperatures may also have caused frosted portions of the winter wheat crop. This would explain the divergence between the Chicago and Kansas City markets. May CBOT wheat futures were unchanged at $6.9675/bushel at their Thursday settlement, while May KCBT wheat surged 8.75 cents to $7.3875, and May MGE futures climbed 4.5 cents to $7.845.

Cattle traders seemed to think the Wednesday CME breakdown was overdone, since short-covering reportedly boosted the Chicago market Thursday. The fact that feedlot operators in the western Corn Belt declined to take lower packer bids (as did their counterparts in the Southern Plains) may be sparking some buying as well. The firmness in the face of sizeable midday beef losses was rather impressive. June cattle closed 0.62 cents higher at 120.65 cents/pound Thursday, while December added 0.17 cents to 126.82. May feeder cattle futures lost 0.55 cents to 141.77 cents/pound, and August sank 0.35 cents to 148.82.

Wire service sourced also cited short-covering for supporting CME lean hog futures Thursday. The concurrent cattle strength, as well as the sizeable wholesale gains posted since Tuesday morning may also have supported the market. Conversely, substantial cash market losses in the western Corn Belt may have undercut some futures. Chicago prices were mixed to lower at the end of the day. The lightly traded May hog contract dipped 0.15 cents to 87.40 cents/pound late Thursday afternoon, while the June contract slid 0.05 cents to 89.45.