Lean-hog futures finished lower Thursday, weighed down by technical selling signals and uncertainty ahead of this Friday's quarterly government hog supply report, which some expect to be somewhat bearish on hog supplies. February lean hogs lost 0.42 cent, or 0.5%, to 87.02 cents a pound at the CME. April hogs slid 0.52 cent, or 0.6%, to 90.95 cents a pound.
U.S. live-cattle futures finished weaker Thursday, ahead of significant cash buying to indicate the direction of beef demand in the coming weeks. Negative technical signals also pressured feeder-cattle futures, undermining some of their recent support on tightening supplies. December live-cattle futures shed 0.5 cent, or 0.4%, to $1.2885 a pound at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. Most-active February futures also fell, dropping 0.72 cent, or 0.5%, to $1.3305 a pound.
U.S. wheat futures traded lower Thursday, sliding to fresh lows amid a slow pace of exports and end-of-year investor selling. Chicago Board of Trade futures for March delivery was down 2 3/4 cents, or 0.4%, at $7.71 3/4 a bushel. Kansas City Board of Trade March wheat was unchanged at $8.24 1/2 a bushel. MGEX March wheat dropped 3 cents, or 0.3%, at $8.66 a bushel.
U.S. grain and soybean futures ended mostly lower Thursday amid speculative fund selling and lackluster demand. Soybeans for January delivery at the Chicago Board of Trade closed down 5 3/4 cents, or 0.4%, to $14.19 a bushel, while March corn closed down 1 3/4 cents to $6.91 1/2. March CBOT wheat closed down 2 1/4 cents to $7.72 1/4. Futures are being pressured by the ongoing worries about the fiscal cliff. Equities and other markets gyrated Thursday amid various news reports about whether government officials would reach a deal before the end of the year.
Cotton slipped to a one-week low as investors pocketed profits amid concerns about the fiscal cliff, which could dampen consumer spending on non-essential items, such as cotton clothing. But Daniels Trading's John Payne says the downside is limited. "I think the trade is still skeptical" about how many acres will be planted with the fiber, he says. "70-cent cotton is not going to get a lot of acreage," when farmers can plant soybeans instead. ICE cotton for March delivery settled 1.4% lower at 76.01c/lb, a low since Dec 20.
The North Wilkesboro and Norwood livestock auction markets were closed Wednesday, December 26, 2012 in observance of the Christmas Day holiday.
No. 2 yellow shelled corn prices ranged $6.81-$7.62 at feed mills and $6.87-$7.22 at elevators. No. 1 yellow soybeans were $13.94 at processors, and $13.38-$13.84 at elevators. No. 2 red winter wheat was not established. Soybean meal, f.o.b. at processing plants was $479.80 per ton for 48% protein.
The NC egg market was not established. Supplies are moderate. Retail demand is good. Weighted average prices for small lot sales of Grade A eggs delivered to nearby retail outlets: Extra Large 141.45, Large 141.59, Medium 115.99 and Small 102.
Fruit and vegetable prices (shipping point f.o.b.): Cabbage: Demand moderate. 50 pound cartons Round Green Type medium $7-$8. Greens: Demand fairly good. Various containers bunched/loose Collard, Kale, Mustard, and Turnip Tops $6.50-$7. Sweet Potatoes: Demand moderate. 40 pound cartons Orange Types U.S. No. 1 $13-$15 few higher and lower, U.S. No. 1 Petite $10-$12 few higher and lower, U.S. No. 2 $7-$9 few lower occasional higher, No Grade Marks jumbo $6-$8 mostly $6-$7 few higher occasional lower.
Oil futures were steady Thursday, hanging on to recent gains with the focus remaining on Washington budget discussions. Benchmark futures closed above $90 a barrel, retaining most of the gains made Wednesday when prices surged to their highest level in two months on the back of geopolitical tensions and economic news. Light, sweet crude for February delivery settled 11 cents, or 0.1%, lower at $90.87 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude on the ICE futures exchange settled 27 cents, or 0.2%, lower at $110.80 a barrel. Front-month January reformulated gasoline blendstock, or RBOB, settled 0.55 cent, or 0.2%, higher at $2.8213 a gallon. January heating oil settled 2.10 cents, or 0.7%, higher at $3.0723 a gallon.
Natural gas futures slipped again Thursday as investors continued to take a wait-and-see approach to winter forecasts during a season that has so far seen little cold weather. Trading was choppy, with investors trimming losses midday Thursday on a bullish weather forecast. In the end, the January natural gas contract, which expired Thursday, came in at $3.354 a million British thermal units on the New York Mercantile Exchange, down 3.8 cents, or 1.1%. The February contract settled at $3.412, down 1.3 cent, or 0.4%.
Gold futures eased Thursday as traders awaited the potential restart of U.S. budget talks. Futures during the holiday-shortened Christmas week have ambled around $1,660 a troy ounce, showing little momentum with many trading desks thinly staffed and others reluctant to place large bets.
Stocks fell for a fourth day on Thursday, but recovered most of their losses after the House of Representatives, in the barest sign of progress, said it would come back to work on avoiding the "fiscal cliff" this weekend. Dow Jones Industrials dropped 18 points at the end of the day to close at 13096. The Nasdaq finished at 2985, off 4.