Corn futures are a couple of cents higher Thursday morning. Non-commercial buying is providing support to the corn market. In recent weeks, corn prices have become less volatile and that is pulling speculators back into the market. Corn prices have also been supported by the strength in the soybean market. The dollar index is down overnight which could help push corn prices higher. Technically the market is getting stronger. However, corn export sales that will be reported this morning are expected to be bearish.

Soybean prices are 7 to 10 cents higher Thursday morning. Strong commercial buying suggests that more export sales are in the works and will be announced soon. Mixed weather conditions in Brazil and Argentina are also helping to support soybean prices. Soybean prices have been moving higher recently with the January contract up 63 cents in the last two weeks. Export sales reported this morning are expected to be well above the level needed to reach the USDA’s forecast for this year.

Wheat prices are mixed early Thursday. The weaker dollar may provide a little support to the wheat market and the ongoing drought in the Plains states will keep prices from falling much. Traders expect the data in the export sales report to be mixed, with sales above the level needed to reach the USDA forecast, but shipments falling below. We are at the middle of the wheat crop year, so the pace of export shipments needs to accelerate.

Cattle futures are trading about 15 cents higher Thursday morning. The standoff in the cash cattle market continues with most bids still well below asking prices. Packers are short on inventory but with margins already squeezed they are not will to raise their bids, at least not yet. Cattle slaughter is slowing with the volume through Wednesday down 22,000 head compared to the previous week. After moving higher from November 14 to November 23, live cattle prices have settled into a sideways pattern. Feeder cattle prices are a little lower to start the day on Thursday.

Hog futures are 10 to 40 cents higher Thursday morning. The rally in the cash hog market continues, with average prices very close to $80 in some markets on Wednesday. Packer margins are slightly positive and retail demand for hams is supporting cutout values. The futures premium to cash is of some concern to traders, but so far that concern has not had much of an impact on prices. Futures prices continue to signal hog producers that profitability will improve significantly in early 2013.