Weak Chinese economic news may depress crop futures Friday

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Corn futures seemed inclined to follow the soybean market lower Thursday night. There was no significant news concerning the yellow grain, which caused traders to look around for other influences. Two surprisingly weak reports concerning Chinese economic activity implied diminished demand from the largest soybean consuming country, which weighed on soy futures. Thursday evening forecasts of improved South American rainfall during the week of March 11-16 also depressed prices, although that will probably have little impact upon S.A. corn production. May corn slipped 2.5 cents to $7.01/bushel early Friday morning, while December dipped 2.50 cents to $5.545.

Soybean futures turned downward in response to developments Thursday evening and Friday morning developments. First, weather models implied improved South American rainfall during the week of March 11-16, thereby potentially boding well for late-season growth in Argentina, where many fields have been relatively dry. Second, two surprisingly weak reports concerning Chinese economic activity suggested the largest soybean consuming country will not be importing product as aggressively as has recently been the case. May beans fell 13.25 cents to $14.39/bushel in overnight trading, while May soyoil lost 0.26 cents to 48.86 cents/pound and May meal skidded $4.8 to $430.8/ton.

Wheat futures also suffered from weakness spilling over from soybeans Friday morning. There was no news especially pertinent to wheat prices, so traders were also looking at outside factors. The fact that bulls could not force the most-active May contract above chart resistance associated with its 10-day moving average late Thursday evening may spark technical selling this morning. May CBOT wheat futures slid 2.75 cents to $7.1175/bushel in Friday morning action, while May KCBT wheat slumped 4.50 cents to $7.4825, and May MGE futures inched 0.75 cent lower to $8.01.

Cattle futures rose moderately in Thursday night trading and seem likely to move even higher today. The surge was rather obviously driven by news that country cattle had traded 3.0-5.0 cents higher around 128 cents/pound late Thursday afternoon, thereby seeming to top most forecasts for short-term cash market action. It certainly contrasted with recent quotes in the 123-cent area. April cattle climbed 0.60 cents to 130.45 cents/pound in pre-dawn trading Friday, while August gained 0.45 cents to 126.20. Meanwhile, April feeder cattle surged 0.72 cents to 145.65 cents/pound, while August rallied 0.50 cents at 155.37.

Spillover strength from the cattle market probably boosted hog futures early Friday morning. Actually, the Iowa-Southern Minnesota market also rose significantly Thursday, which might be a sign of renewed cash hog strength. However, Thursday afternoon news of wholesale weakness, particularly the drop suffered by pork loin values, will not help the bullish cause. April hogs rose 0.27 cents to 81.27 cents/pound in early Friday morning trading, while June edged upward 0.12 cents to 91.60.

Cotton futures set back overnight after surging to fresh highs Thursday. Strong stock market gains posted at the same time almost surely played a big role in the late surge, but bulls are almost surely relying upon persistent Chinese buying for major support. However, overnight reports indicating the Chinese manufacturing sector is not doing as well as previously thought almost surely dragged cotton prices downward overnight. It will be very interesting if the drop persists into the weekend or whether bulls again reverse the decline later today. May cotton dove 0.79 cents to 84.50 cents/pound in price action early Friday morning, while December fell 0.60 cents to 84.61.

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