Grain, livestock markets proved quite mixed Tuesday

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South Korean buyers bought corn heavily over the weekend, although only a modest portion of those purchases will apparently come from the U.S. Private Israeli procurement agents also issued international tenders for 135,000 tonnes of corn Tuesday morning. These reports suggest the yellow grain market has fallen far enough to get product moving around the world once again. In fact, one has to wonder if yellow grain prices would have responded more robustly if major USDA crop reports were not looming on Friday. Traders may be particularly interested in the USDA estimate of forthcoming South American production, since a substantial shift in that result could exert great influence over 2013 corn prices. March corn climbed 6 1/2 cents to $6.92/bushel on the day, while December gained 4 1/2 cents to $5.79.

Soybean futures posted an impressive performance Tuesday, despite the fact that the nearby contracts ended the day near unchanged levels. That is, late morning and early afternoon CBOT trading was dominated by talk that the USDA will boost its estimate of first-half 2013 South American soybean product rather substantially, with many now thinking forecast Brazilian output will reach a record high. And while Chicago traders may be evening up their positions prior to the Friday report, the firmness displayed in these circumstances seemed to indicate considerable underlying strength. March beans ended their Tuesday session having slipped just 1/2 cent to $13.88/bushel, while March soyoil tumbled 0.37 cents to 49.59 cents/pound and March meal climbed $2.7 to $411.6/ton.

It looks as if the Southern Plains and southern portions of the Midwest will be blessed with substantial rainfall over the next 2-3 days, thereby seeming to presage a significant improvement in winter wheat production prospects. However, forecasters are also anticipating a major shift back toward frigid temperatures over the U.S. midsection next week. That seemed to raise fears of winterkill in some areas of the Winter Wheat Belt, which in turn appeared to be push wheat futures higher in the face of flat-to-weak corn and soybean prices. The early afternoon release of a wire service survey may have weighed upon prices as well, since it implied winter wheat plantings reached 42.69 million acres last fall; that would represent a four-year high. March CBOT wheat settled 3/4 cent higher at $7.52/bushel Tuesday, while March KCBT wheat rose 2 cents to $8.09 1/2 and March MGE futures slipped 2 3/4 cents to $8.43 3/4.

The surprising weakness exhibited by choice grade beef cutout Monday likely played a significant role in undercutting CME live cattle futures. But traders may also have harbored concerns about the size of feedlot showlists during the days just ahead, since producers reportedly sold few animals last week. Those fears were at least partially confirmed this morning, when a Panhandle feedlot reportedly sold a sizeable lot for 128 cents/pound, which essentially matched the consensus Southern Plains price posted last Friday. Optimism about the first quarter outlook probably provided persistent support, especially after choice beef values rebounded at noon. Still, Tuesday CME action was not very encouraging. February cattle ended the day having slipped 0.45 cents to 132.55 cents/pound, while April slumped 0.40 to 136.32.

Many in the livestock industry probably believe greatly elevated cattle and beef prices will support the hog and pork complex for the foreseeable future. Thus, the traditional mid-winter swine rally might be exaggerated if/when fed cattle prices surge to fresh record highs. That may at least partially explain the gains posted by the nearby CME hog contracts Tuesday. Conversely, one has to wonder if deferred hog futures are falling prey to suspicions that the surprisingly large numbers stated on the late December USDA Hogs & Pigs report bode ill for the summer-fall price outlook. The mixed trading experienced today becomes more understandable in such circumstances. February hogs rose 0.05 cents to 86.35 cents/pound Tuesday, while the June contract posted a 0.35-cent advance to 98.50.


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