Corn futures were mixed early Thursday morning. There was little fresh news, with the highlights being the exclusion of U.S. corn from a major South Korean purchase and a modest switch toward increased short-term Argentine precipitation by the U.S. weather model. However, traders may have been covering short positions ahead of the 7:30 AM (CST) release of weekly USDA Export Sales report, since a large total spark a bullish reaction. March corn edged 0.75 cent higher, to $6.9625/bushel in early morning action, while December inched upward by 0.75 cent to $5.65.
The modest improvement in the precipitation forecast for the driest areas of Argentina seemingly depressed soybean futures Wednesday night. Otherwise there was not a lot of news concerning the soybean complex either. News that palm oil prices slipped in Asia overnight may have weighed upon soybean oil futures as well. That might also help explain the relative firmness exhibited by soymeal. Of course, the USDA Export Sales reports later this morning could spark a significant move in the soy complex. March beans dipped 1.75 cents to $14.2125 cents/pound in pre-dawn trading, while March soyoil fell 0.15 cents to 51.50 cents/pound, and March meal rose $0.2 to $408.1/ton.
Despite the negative influence spilling over from the corn and soy markets, wheat futures rose modestly Wednesday night. There were apparently few changes to weather forecasts for the wheat fields of the U.S. Southern Plains, but European news may have supported American prices somewhat. A French firm reportedly cut its 2013 wheat production forecast by 1.1 million tonnes. Talk of poor crop conditions in Southern Russia may have encouraged bulls as well. March CBOT wheat futures rose 3.0 cents to 7.3825/bushel early Thursday morning, while March KCBT wheat gained 4.75 cents to $7.85, and March MGE futures climbed 4.25 cents to $8.2725.
CME live cattle continued their recent decline Wednesday night despite a slight rise in beef cutout values and news that the delivery notices posted Tuesday afternoon were quickly demanded. Ongoing cash market losses are almost surely weighing upon the Chicago market, especially with packer margins remaining deep in the red. Futures are somewhat oversold from a technical standpoint, but that is no assurance that prices will not move even lower. April cattle tumbled 0.55 cents to 128.85 cents/pound in early Thursday trading, while August sank 0.27 cents to 125.00. Meanwhile, March feeder cattle lost 0.45 cents to 140.90 cents/pound, and August dropped 0.65 cents to 153.95.
Hog futures also fell moderately in overnight trading. Although the direct cash markets posted modest gains Wednesday afternoon, the late wholesale report almost guaranteed a significantly lower opening this morning. That is, in addition to a dramatic breakdown in primal ham values, pork loins dropped rather substantially as well. Traders are probably worried about a repeat of the weak environment experienced through late winter and early spring last year. April hogs moved 0.45 cents lower, to 85.35 cents/pound overnight, while June skidded 0.40 cents to 93.75.
Cotton futures moved moderately lower Thursday morning after dropping substantially on Tuesday and Wednesday. Talk of burgeoning stockpiles deliverable against the ICE contracts reportedly caused the breakdown. Prices actually fell to 80.05 cents/pound (basis March) at the Wednesday low, the rebounded rather sharply. Bulls are almost surely hoping that marks an end to the decline suffered over the past three weeks, whereas others are probably expecting a test of the 78.00-cent area. The USDA Export Sales report due for release at 7:30 AM CST could determine short-term market direction. March cotton slipped 0.02 cents, to 80.80 cents/pound in early morning trading, while December dipped 0.27 cents to 82.50.