Dry weather concerns reemerged Monday night and Tuesday morning

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The Monday morning Export Inspections data apparently proved quite supportive of the corn market, since the latest figure, at 21.1 million bushels, marked the largest weekly result since last September. However, wire service reports contended that the prospect of re-emergent dry weather over Argentine grain growing areas next week was the main driver of the afternoon CBOT rally. While Southern Brazil and parts of Argentina are expected to be blessed with rainfall this weekend, the weather models are apparently pointing to the reemergence of the high blocking moisture from that region next week. The market apparently saw more of the same in overnight trading, with March corn rising 1 3/4 cents to $7.31/bushel and December unchanged at $5.90.

Soybean traders were quite aware yesterday of anticipated rains over Southern Brazil and Argentina this coming weekend, but the prospective return of recent dryness afterward was what apparently caught their attention. Those concerns very likely powered the late CBOT advance in beans and meal, whereas spreading between the two products probably weighed upon soy oil futures. There seemed to be little substantive news Monday night and Tuesday morning, as signified by the fact that the complex was mixed to unchanged in early morning activity. March beans inched 1/4 cent higher $14.48/bushel, while March soyoil rose 0.01 cent to 51.90 cents/pound and March meal gained $0.4 to $420.7/ton.

Wheat traders were apparently encouraged by the ability of minor technical support to hold last week, so they were probably ready to jump upon the bullish bandwagon (pardon the mixed metaphors) Monday. The weekly Export Inspections result may also have buoyed their hopes for continued price gains. But the real power behind any bullish moves will almost surely derive from the persistent dryness dominating the winter wheat fields spread across the Southern Plains. If that situation does not improve significantly during the coming weeks, prospects for a decent crop will diminish substantially. Talk along those lines very likely boosted futures in overnight trading. March CBOT wheat futures climbed 2 cents to $7.81 1/4 in early morning action, while March KCBT wheat increase 2 1/2 cents to $8.35 1/4 and March MGE futures edged 1 1/2 cents higher to $8.68 per bushel.

As expected, live cattle futures responded well to the combination of bullish data on the Friday (1/25) USDA Cattle on Feed report and weekend news that Japan will ease restrictions on U.S. beef February first. They currently allow beef only from animals documented to be 20 months or younger, while the new rule will allow product from animals up to 30 months of age. This potentially opens the island nation up to the bulk of U.S. production, although the industry will almost surely have to be able to certify the age of animals used. This probably means some delays in ramping up Japanese exports, but the underlying possibility of doubling U.S. sales to that country apparently carried the day. The potential for delays, as well as the inability of wholesale beef prices to sustain rallies seemed to weigh on the market overnight. After spiking upward Monday, February cattle fell 0.52 cents to $128.42 cents/pound in the early morning hours, while April dipped 0.37 cents to 133.02.

Few CME traders could have been terribly surprised that the big Monday cattle rally spilled over into the hog pit, with the swine contracts posting varying gains. A portion of that strength may also have reflected bullish expectations concerning the short-term hog outlook, since cash prices traditionally rise moderately during late January and early February. The fact that the CME lean hog index remains at a noticeable premium to the nearby February future also seems very supportive. The afternoon cash reports were decidedly mixed, with those in the influential Iowa-Southern Minnesota region posting significant losses. Pork cutout rose modestly. We suspect disappointment with the results of the Monday afternoon cash and wholesale reports undercut hog futures Monday night and Tuesday morning. February hogs slipped 0.32 cents to 86.85 cents/pound in early-morning electronic trading, while June futures skidded 0.15 cents to 97.50.

A Monday afternoon wire service report indicated that Chinese officials proved able to sell only 29% of the government cotton put up for sale last week, which made the previous weekly result, at just 55% sold, seem positively robust. This reportedly encouraged ICE cotton traders, since it suggested demand from Chinese textile mills will remain strong and that the government will have a hard time getting rid of its massive stockpile. Many in the industry view cotton as being significantly overvalued when viewed within the context of huge Chinese inventories, but traders seemingly harbor few worries in this regard. The strong overnight advance offers more proof on that point. March cotton futures jumped 1.17 to 82.22 cents/pound in pre-dawn trading, while December surged 0.99 cents to 80.98.



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