Corn futures continued their recent decline Thursday after the weekly Export Sales figure proved quite small once again. The market moved little in Thursday night action, with most quotes coming in mixed to unchanged in the early morning hours. Traders are rather obviously awaiting the results of the USDA Crop Production and Supply/Demand reports scheduled for an 11:00 AM CST release. March corn edged 1.0 cent lower to $7.0975/bushel early Friday morning, while December was unchanged at $5.6625.

Friday morning saw soybean futures rise slightly. As in the corn and wheat pits, there was little fresh news available overnight. Bulls may have been reacting to prospects for limited rainfall over stressed fields in Argentina and Southern Brazil through much of next week. The fact that bears proved unable to force the nearby contracts below their 10-day moving average during the decline seen over the past four days may also be encouraging some buying ahead of the USDA reports to be released later this morning. March soybeans rose 4.5 cents to 14.9025 overnight, while March soyoil slipped 0.02 cents to 51.83 cents/pound and March meal gained $1.3 to $438.9/ton.

Position squaring may have boosted wheat futures Thursday night. That is, after pushing the golden grain markets substantially lower during the past week, traders are probably lightening up their short positions ahead of the late-morning release of monthly USDA reports. morning Export Sales report stated the net weekly wheat total at 300,800 tonnes, which essentially matched the lower end of industry forecasts. The fact that bears could not force prices below their mid-January lows may also have prompted considerable short covering. March CBOT wheat futures rose 2.0 cents to $7.58/bushel in early Friday trading, while March KCBT wheat climbed 3.0 cents to $8.04 and March MGE futures added 1.5 cents to $8.4075.

Cattle futures were mixed to unchanged early Friday morning. Bulls are very likely expecting a modest rise in cash prices later today; the fact that producers again posted no delivery notices against the expiring February contract, despite its premium to the consensus price reached last week, apparently points in that direction as well. However, demand remains a significant issue for the cattle/beef industry, as exemplified by the drop posted by choice beef cutout again Thursday afternoon. April cattle were unchanged at 131.52 cents/pound in pre-dawn trading, while August rose 0.25 cents to 127.85. Meanwhile, March feeder cattle rallied 0.37 cents to 147.57 cents/pound and August advanced 0.25 cents to 159.20.

Hog futures slumped in overnight electronic action. Bulls got a bit of good news Thursday afternoon, when pork cutout did not fall nearly as sharply as it had the previous two days. However, direct cash prices, particularly those in the Iowa-Southern Minnesota region, lost significant ground. That suggests the premium recently built into the CME index will diminish during the days ahead. April hogs skidded 0.05 cents to 86.92 cents/pound, and June lost 0.25 cents to 94.35.

Cotton futures rose modestly in Thursday night trading. The rise was not terribly surprising given the bullish atmosphere and the sizeable rebound from lows posted early yesterday. Futures fell rather sharply in the wake of the disappointing Thursday morning Export Sales result. Bearish inability to force a major test of chart support around the 80.00-cent level may have persuaded traders to test overhead resistance from this point. Bulls may also be anticipating a positive result on the monthly USDA Supply/Demand and Crop Production reports set for release late this morning. March cotton rose 0.18 cents to 81.58 cents/pound in electronic trading Friday morning, while December futures slipped 0.05 cents to 82.33.