Corn futures backed away from early highs. Surging equity markets reflect renewed optimism about the global economic & political outlook, which in turn seems bullish for grain demand prospects. Corn futures rallied significantly in early morning action, but have slumped a bit in the wake of the mediocre result on the weekly USDA Export Sales report. March corn futures rose 2.5 cents at $4.1075/bushel late Thursday morning, while July added 2.5 to $4.2575.

The soy complex turned mixed. The USDA Export Sales report indicated a soybean result that met expectations but fell far below the huge totals posted in recent weeks. Conversely, product sales smashed forecasts, thereby seeming to send a bullish signal to Chicago traders. However, this morning’s bearish crude oil reversal undercut the oil market and seemed to take the starch out of the whole complex. January soybean futures gained 4.0 cents to $10.31/bushel just before lunchtime Thursday, while January soyoil stalled at 31.77 cents/pound, and January meal moved up $4.2 to $363.5/ton.

Late news continues supporting the wheat markets. Early Thursday reports indicated that Russia’s new export rules had slowed rail ladings of wheat. As one would expect, that development encouraged fresh buying at the U.S. exchanges. Bulls probably liked the Export Sales report as well, since the latest figure topped recent totals and slightly exceeded forecasts. March CBOT wheat climbed 9.25 cents to $6.5775/bushel around midsession Thursday, while March KC wheat rallied 5.5 cents to $6.87/bushel and March MWE wheat advanced 1.5 to $6.6125.

Fed cattle futures lost their downward momentum. Although the feeder cattle market remains under extreme pressure, the recent breakdown in fed cattle prices seemed to run its course. We suspect reports of another cash market dive Wednesday afternoon matched industry expectations, thereby opening the door for a short-covering bounce. February live cattle rebounded 1.27 cents to 157.10 cents/pound late Thursday morning, while April futures vaulted 1.22 cents to 156.77. January feeder cattle futures plunged ‘just’ 2.10 cents to 214.50 cents/pound and March feeders fell 0.60 cents to 211.65.

Limited spot market losses seemed to take the pressure off of hogs. Despite big cash and wholesale losses posted Wednesday afternoon, hog futures bounced on today’s opening. Traders probably think recent CME losses were overdone, particularly after today’s spot quotes proved more stable. February hog futures jumped 1.17 cents to 81.65 cents/pound as the lunch hour loomed Thursday, while June hogs surged 1.35 cents to 90.25.

The export data probably encouraged bearish cotton traders. The fact that nearby futures couldn’t top their 40-day moving average Wednesday seemed to spark overnight selling. One also has to wonder if traders were expecting a disappointing Export Sales figure today, since the latest figure fell over 50% short of comparable week-ago and four-week average results. March cotton futures sagged 0.12 cents to 60.53 cents/pound shortly before noon (EST) Thursday, while the July contract dipped 0.14 to 61.73.