Grain, livestock markets divergent Wednesday afternoon

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Corn futures apparently followed soybeans higher Wednesday. The latest weather model results implying improved Argentine rainfall this weekend seemingly depressed soybean futures earlier in the day, but the latest export news probably boosted both markets. That is, traders suspect recent price declines have made U.S. corn more competitive on the international market. They are likely awaiting the results of the weekly USDA Export Sales report to be released early tomorrow morning with considerable interest. March corn ended the Wednesday CBOT session 4.5 cents higher, at $7.095/bushel, while December skidded 2.25 cents to $5.5375.

Soybean futures fluctuated widely Wednesday, but eventually ended the day having risen in apparent response to good export news. Talk of increased Argentine rainfall this weekend seemed to weigh upon the market, whereas news that U.S. firms had recently sold 240,000 tonnes of beans supported the market. The fact that half of that total included old crop beans seemed particularly supportive of short-term prospects. Futures might move even higher if the sales news is indicative of a strong result on the weekly USDA Export Sales report coming Thursday morning. March beans gained 11.5 cents to $14.575 at the Wednesday close, while March soyoil had rose 0.27 cents to 49.27 cents/pound, and March meal gained $2.9 to $429.3/ton.

Wheat futures proved surprisingly firm Wednesday morning, but suffered significant losses late in the day. The corn and soybean markets seemed to provide considerable support, but mid-session reports concerning the export situation may have weighed upon the market. For example, news that Saudi Arabia is in the market for 400,000 tonnes of hard wheat probably boosted the Kansas City market, whereas reports of a need to reform the Egyptian wheat tending system and that a defensive stockpile of over 2.0 million tonnes by that country may have weighed upon the complex. March CBOT wheat futures settled 1.5 cents lower, at $7.0425/bushel Wednesday afternoon, while March KCBT wheat rose 1.75 cents to $7.3425, and March MGE futures dipped 0.75 cents to $7.8725.

Cattle futures appeared to surge Wednesday in belated reaction to the Monday blizzard over the Southern Plains. The wintry conditions probably stressed feedlot cattle while limiting sales and shipments to beef packers. Resurgent beef prices may have focused trader interest upon those effects. For example, after having slipped to 182.35 cents/pound last Thursday, choice cutout had reached 185.33 late this morning. Select cutout gains have been even larger. April cattle had reached 129.90 cents/pound, up 0.60 cents, when the closing bell rang, while August gained 0.15 cents to 125.70. Meanwhile, March feeder cattle climbed 0.27 cents to 141.45 cents/pound, and August edged 0.17 cents upward to 154.57.

Talk that pork packers may curtail their weekend kill due to weak demand apparently undercut CME lean hog futures again Wednesday. Other news was no more encouraging. An early report indicated that Iowa-Southern Minnesota hog weights had slightly exceeded their year-ago counterpart for the first time since September, suggested current market-ready supplies are relatively plentiful. In addition, the afternoon cash reports stated direct market quotes significantly below day-prior readings once again. April hogs settled 0.57 cents lower, at 81.00 cents/pound Wednesday afternoon, while June slipped 0.10 cents to 91.22.

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