Corn futures closed sharply higher on Thursday. Short-covering following yesterday's losses were initially supportive. But gains were extended by the bullish weekly export sales report, sharply higher crude oil prices and the rally in the stock market. May ended 20 3/4 cents higher at $3.85 1/4 and December was 19 3/4 cents higher at $4.15 3/4.

Soybean futures were strongly higher on Thursday. Outside market strength helped support the market. Sharp gains in crude oil and the rally in the stock market were supportive. Weekly export sales were also very strong. New commitments of 30.8 million bushels were the highest on record for this week of the year dating back at least to 1990. May closed 20 cents higher at $8.82 and November was 24 1/2 cents higher at $8.41 1/2.

Wheat futures were higher on Thursday. Strength in corn and soybeans along with outside market support pushed wheat prices higher. The dollar was weaker today while the stock market and crude oil posted strong gains. Further gains were limited by sluggish export demand and from USDA raising their wheat ending stocks estimate by 57 million bushels yesterday. CBOT May ended 16 3/4 cents higher at $5.25, KCBT May was 13 1/4 cents higher at $5.74 1/4 and MGE May was 12 1/4 cents higher at $6.17 3/4.

Cattle futures settled higher on Thursday. Short-covering and commercial buying helped lift futures after initially opening lower on weaker choice beef prices and some weakness in the cash market on Wednesday. However, the rally in the stock market and ideas that cash cattle could still trade higher later in the week helped rally futures. April was $1.35 higher at $83.90 and June was 88 cents higher at $81.83.

Lean hog futures closed with sizable gains in all months on Thursday. Tightening hog supplies in the cash market helped to support futures with higher corn prices and the rising stock market also fueling the rally. Early improvement in futures triggered short covering, pushing prices up further. April closed $1.90 higher at $62.23 and June was $1.35 higher at $73.75.