Ag markets will apparently start this week on a strong note

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After slipping late last week, corn futures surged Sunday night in response to news concerning the wheat market. A Chinese think tank reported that that country had bought 12-14 cargoes of wheat last week. Meteorologists also indicated that the U.S. winter wheat crop faces a significant frost threat later this week. Both corn and soybeans rallied along with wheat. May corn seems set to begin Monday morning trading about 4.75 cents higher, at $6.3375/bushel, while December was unchanged at $5.35 overnight.

As mentioned above, seeming confirmation of rumored U.S. wheat sales to China last week and forecasts indicating potential for frost damage to the U.S. winter wheat crop boosted the grain and soy complexes Sunday night and Monday morning. The legume market may also be gathering support from talk of excessive rainfall over Argentine fields as they try to harvest their bean crop. Palm oil strength may have spilled over into the soy complex as well. May soybeans surged 15.5 cents to $13.7725/bushel in pre-dawn trading Monday, while May soyoil jumped 0.55 cents to 49.38 cents/pound, and May meal added $4.0 to $395.8/ton.

A Chinese think tank stated Sunday evening that the Asian giant had bought 12-14 cargoes of U.S. wheat last week, which apparently boosted the market somewhat in early Monday morning electronic trading. Traders may be taking such talk with a grain of salt, since U.S. companies are obligated to report significant sales to the USDA within 24 hours and few such announcements were made last week. Predictions of a potential frost across the U.S. Winter Wheat Belt later this week may be more important to the market at this point. May CBOT wheat futures climbed 3.5 cents to $7.025/bushel early Monday morning, while May KCBT wheat gained 6.0 cents to $7.32 and May MGE futures added 5.5 cents to $7.93.

Cattle futures seemed to turn downward in response to the weak result of the monthly U.S. Employment report last Friday. The fact that recent actions by Japanese central bankers have sent the yen sharply lower may also be undercutting the livestock markets, since that raises the relative cost of American red meat in that country and, probably, across East Asia. Concerns about the ultimate impact of the Chinese bird flu problem may also be weighing upon cattle futures. June cattle dropped 0.85 cents to 121.50 cents/pound at their Friday afternoon settlement, while December tumbled 1.00 cent to 128.05. May feeder cattle futures dove 1.65 cents to 144.30 cents/pound, and August plunged 1.62 cents to 151.20.

Hog futures also appeared to suffer from the latest economic/financial market developments late last week. Again, weak employment data and declining equity values suggests slower economic growth, while the declining yen could slow U.S. pork exports. Midsession reports of significant cash market gains seemingly did little to limit losses. Hog futures are probably more vulnerable from a scare associated with the Chinese bird flu problem than are cattle. The lightly traded May hog contract crashed 2.25 cents to 86.90 cents/pound its Friday close, while June plummeted 2.32 cents to 89.70.

Cotton futures apparently benefited from strength spilling over from the grain and soybean complexes Monday morning. Rising food production prices tend to increase competition for arable land across the Southern U.S. The relatively firm equity market close last Friday, as well as the modest increase stock index futures gains posted overnight may also be encouraging buying (since that ultimately implies increased apparel demand from consumers. On the other hand, talk of Indian government cotton sales from stocks can hardly be seen as bullish. May cotton rose 0.15 cents to 86.94 cents/pound early Monday morning, while December gained 0.13 cents to 86.84.


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