Ag markets seem set for a mixed close to this week's trading

Corn futures bounced modestly Thursday night. Little fresh news concerning corn emerged Thursday night. Prices declined earlier this week on news of improved South American rainfall and concerns about Chinese buying of U.S. grain and products. Thus, traders may be taking profits on shorts and/or bottom-picking before the weekend. March corn futures inched up 0.75 cent to $4.2125/bushel early Friday morning, while May added 0.5 cent to $4.295/bushel.

The soy complex also firmed in overnight action. Soybean and product futures have suffered losses that did substantial technical damage this week. However, the sheer size of the Tuesday-Thursday breakdown is probably prompting a good deal of short-covering before the weekend. Unfortunately for producers and bulls, the rebound may prove quite temporary. March soybeans edged up 1.25 cents to $12.7125/bushel in early Friday trading, while March soyoil rose 0.04 cents to 38.84 cents/pound, and March soymeal crept $0.1 higher to $406.4/ton.

The wheat markets proved mixed early this morning. After dropping rather sharply Thursday, with the benchmark March CBOT contract closing under $6.00/bushel, the wheat markets seemed to find support Thursday night. Traders may simply be unwilling to hold sizeable short positions through the weekend, especially with Great Plains temperatures expected to fall below zero degrees Fahrenheit early next week. March CBOT wheat futures were unchanged at $5.97/bushel just before dawn Friday, while March KCBT wheat futures moved up 0.75 cent to $6.32, but March MWE futures slipped 0.75 to $6.245.

Surging cash prices are encouraging CME cattle bulls. Cattle futures turned decisively higher Thursday in response to news of a fresh upward push in country prices. Given those developments, as well as forecasts for arctic weather over the Great Plains early next week, it wasn't terribly surprising to see prices sustain their advance overnight. However, beef prices ended Thursday slightly lower, which may take the edge off of bullish enthusiasm. February cattle futures rallied 0.20 cents to 135.82 cents/pound as Friday dawned over Chicago, while April futures ran up 0.20 to 136.00. Meanwhile, March feeder cattle futures surged 0.65 cents to 167.65 cents/pound, and May climbed 0.25 to 169.20.

Late Thursday reports seemed to undercut hog futures. Hog futures recovered from surprising late-December weakness yesterday, due in part to midsession reports indicating substantial cash and wholesale strength. However, the late afternoon reports proved less favorable, which probably explains the overnight slippage. February hogs sagged 0.12 cents to 86.95 cents/pound early Friday morning, while June skidded 0.22 to 100.85.

Cotton futures tested chart support this morning. Cotton futures rallied significantly during December, so it isn't terribly surprising that traders seemed to be taking profits here in early January. After dipping in late Thursday, prices remained under pressure last night. However, an early bounce from overnight lows implies considerable underlying support. March cotton declined 0.31 cents lower at 83.73 cents/pound just after dawn Friday, while July cotton slid 0.29 cents to 83.69.


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