Corn futures closed 2 ¼ to 3 ¾ cents higher on Thursday. Strength in wheat provided underlying support to corn along with continued uncertainty regarding yields and production. Weekly corn export sales were lower than expected at only 10 million bushels. September closed up 3 3/4 cents at $7.97 3/4 and December closed 3 1/2 cents higher at $8.07 1/2.
The soybean market traded lower on Thursday. Opinions that weather patterns are improving for soybean production prospects weighed on the market today. Iowa reported rains across the state over the past 24 hours. More rains are in the forecast for the southern and eastern Midwest over the next two days. Then, cooler temperatures will be the norm for several days. The improvement in the weather outweighed bullish news on exports sales, including sales of 123,900 tonnes of soymeal to the Philippines. At the close, September beans were down 3 1/2 cents at $16.56 1/4 and November gave up 9 1/4 cents to close at $16.25 1/4.
Wheat futures closed firm Thursday, with double-digit gains at the CBOT and KCBT. The key driver was more talk that Russia may have to suspend export sales by November at the pace they're booking and the way production estimates keep declining. Another supporting feature was renewed concern about dry conditions in western Australia. Still another was word that a highly regarded European publication had just put out a wheat crop estimate lower than USDA's Aug. 10th estimate. Somewhat offsetting these positives for prices were disappointing weekly export sales and forecasts for additional rain in the U.S. southern Plains where it's badly needed to assure good emergence and stands for next year's HRW wheat crop. At the close, September wheat at CBOT was 15 1/2 cents higher at $8.81 3/4; KCBT September closed 14 cents higher at $8.97; and MGE closed 8 1/2 cents higher at $9.32.
Live cattle futures closed lower on Thursday. No cash trade has been reported, but packer bids are climbing toward last week's levels. Strength in the beef market has been supportive to fed cattle futures, but beef prices are expected to ease from these levels as Labor Day retailers complete Labor Day buying. Weakness was also tied to profit-taking ahead of USDA's Cattle on Feed report on Friday which is expected to show heavy placements even though placements are likely to be down year-over-year. The October contract closed $1.10 lower at $125.55 while December closed 80 cents lower at $128.07.
Lean hog futures settled mixed on Thursday in light trade volume. December and February contracts were a little lower while contracts for later months in 2013 settled with very modest gains. The cash index is still far above the nearby contract level, but there isn't much else to support prices. Slaughter levels are rising and so are hog weights. It appears that some liquidation of the breeding herd is now underway. Traders clearly expect that with the June contract up near $100. On Thursday the October contract settled at $75.63, up 3 cents. December was down 38 cents, falling to $72.90.