Markets are quiet ahead of USDA reports later this morning

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Corn futures were narrowly mixed Wednesday night as traders await USDA reports today. Those start with the weekly Export Sales number early in the morning. However, traders may not react significantly to those data unless they are quite surprising, since the release of the quarterly Grain Stocks and annual Prospective Plantings reports come later in the morning (11:00 CDT). Prices could move dramatically from that point. May corn was unchanged at $7.3525/bushel early Thursday morning, while the December contract edged 0.5 cent lower $5.705.

After rising moderately Wednesday, soybean futures set back early Thursday morning. There was little significant news concerning the legume market Wednesday night; a palm oil decline to weekly lows apparently dragged soil oil values downward, which may also explain the concurrent soybean slippage and modest gains in soymeal prices. Of course, the situation could change rather drastically after the various USDA reports (i.e. weekly Export Sales, quarterly Grain Stocks and annual Prospective Plantings) are released later this morning. May soybeans slipped 1.25 cent to $14.525/bushel in pre-dawn Thursday trading, while May soyoil dipped 0.20 cents to 50.62 cents/pound, and May meal added $0.7 to $423.8/ton.

The international wheat markets seemed surprisingly active Wednesday night, which may be a big reason U.S. futures rose modestly early Thursday morning. Technically inclined traders may also be buying despite the uncertainty associated with looming USDA reports, because the benchmark May CBOT contract easily topped chart resistance associated with its 40-day moving average Wednesday. May CBOT wheat futures rose 2.5 cents to $7.3925/bushel early Thursday morning, while May KCBT wheat gained 3.5 cents to $7.775 and May MGE futures moved up 3.25 cents to $8.1625.

After rallying Wednesday in response to firm cash news, cattle futures proved narrowly mixed early Thursday morning. Bullish hopes for stronger cash prices later this week and in April supported the nearby contract, but the other 2013 contracts declined modestly. Traders probably worry that the surprising weakness in beef demand experienced through much of the first quarter will persist for the foreseeable future. April cattle lifted 0.27 cents to 127.62 cents/pound in early Thursday morning action, while August skidded 0.20 cents to 123.82. Meanwhile, April feeder cattle futures added 0.15 cents to 140.55 cents/pound, and August gained 0.25 cents to 149.50.

CME lean hog futures moved generally lower Wednesday and proved rather weak again Thursday morning. The expiring April contract set back from its Wednesday advance overnight, which probably reflected surprisingly weak cash quotes late yesterday. Late news of wholesale weakness very likely weighed upon prices as well. We do not expect much hog market volatility today, since the USDA will release its quarterly Hogs & Pigs report at 2:00 PM CDT this afternoon. April hogs slipped 0.22 cents to 79.85 cents/pound in early Thursday morning electronic activity, while June set back 0.05 cents to 90.62.

Although Chinese government officials reportedly plan to increase their sales of high quality cotton in April, cotton traders are apparently more concerned with Chinese promises to again buy and hold a larger percentage of its domestic cotton crop next fall. That could keep the global situation relatively tight despite indications of improved production from drought-reduced totals posted last year. Thus, cotton futures rose slightly Wednesday night despite the looming release of the weekly Export Sales and annual Prospective Plantings reports. May cotton advanced 0.18 cents to 88.71 cents/pound early Thursday morning, while December climbed 0.11 cents to 87.36.

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