Grain markets mixed again to end the week

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Strong gains by the S&P 500 index Friday seemed supportive of the commodity markets Friday, but the corn rally had a more direct cause. That is, the latest weather forecasts imply substantial rainfall over large areas of the Corn Belt again next week, thereby implying persistent delays to U.S. corn plantings. Those not only reduce the productive potential of the grain that gets planted, continued postponement of corn plantings also tend to cause acreage to shift from corn to soybeans. May corn climbed 7.5 cents to $6.52/bushel at the Friday close, while December gained 5.75 cents to $5.47.

News of lock closures on the Mississippi River may have weighed upon soybean futures Friday, since that essentially reduces short-term export demand. The potential for spring plantings to shift from corn to soybeans may also have weighed upon new crop futures. In addition, the market may simply have been ready for a setback after climbing substantially during the past two weeks. May soybeans fell 2.25 cents to $14.2825/bushel Friday afternoon, while May soyoil dropped 0.50 cents to 49.16 cents/pound, and May soybean meal rose $1.4 to $412.4/ton.

The prospect of delayed spring wheat plantings also seemed to support the wheat markets Friday. The fact that the Minneapolis market outperformed Chicago, which in turn outstripped Kansas City, appeared to confirm such ideas, since Northern Plains delays could be extreme. Conversely, early reports suggesting the overnight frost did little damage to Southern Plains winter wheat apparently weighed upon KC prices. May CBOT wheat futures settled 6.25 cents higher, at $7.09/bushel, Friday afternoon, while May KCBT wheat edged up 2.25 cents to $7.46 and May MGE futures surged 7.75 cents to $8.2525.

Cattle futures moved lower in response to news of slipping cash prices Friday morning. And while select beef cutout rose substantially, traders may have paid more attention to another drop in choice cutout. The afternoon Cattle on Feed report looked rather bearish for Monday, since March placements easily topped forecasts (106% versus 98.5% of year-ago, respectively). June cattle dipped 0.07 cents to 121.30 cents/pound late Friday afternoon, while December slid 0.37 cents to 126.60. May feeder cattle futures fell 0.85 cents to 139.20 cents/pound, and August sank 1.12 cents to 146.05.

Late morning news of cash cattle weakness seemed to undercut CME lean hog futures as well. Friday morning cash and wholesale news was somewhat mixed, so hog traders probably had little reason to expect a quick reversal of the recent slide in the CME lean hog index (which futures cash-settle against). Until the cash equivalent price turns upward, bulls will have little reason to buy nearby futures at current premiums. May hog futures closed 0.10 cents lower at 87.85 cents/pound Friday afternoon, while the June contract lost 0.40 cents to 90.20.

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