Lean hog futures surged upward as investors focused on signs that pork demand is beginning to climb seasonally. April hog futures closed up 65 at 84.50, June hog futures rallied 152 to 93.52.
U.S. live cattle futures caught a reprieve from a month of steep losses on Thursday as traders covered short positions before a holiday break and as signs of strong exports added support. April Live Cattle rose 42 to $118, April feeders gained 5 to close at $148.
U.S. soybean futures climbed Thursday, ending at a seven-month high on strong demand and worries about tighter world supplies. A bullish market perception continued to fuel price strength in soybeans, as larger-than-expected weekly export sales combined with smaller South American crop prospects to support prices. May Soybean closed up 14 1/2 at $14.34.
Corn futures ended slightly higher. Tight available supplies are reflective of firm cash prices buoying futures. May corn futures ended up 1 1/2 at $6.58.
Wheat futures ended mixed, with winter wheat contracts pressured by improved crop conditions. May wheat in Chicago ended down 3/4 at $6.38, May wheat in KC ended down 7 1/2 at $6.62.
Considering that cotton prices recently touched 94c/lb., US export sales of 143,700 bales were decent. But the market didn't seem to think so. The pessimism over the end to China's buying spree is setting in, as cotton futures fall to a more than two-week low. May cotton fell 78 to 88.54, and the July contract dropped 87 to 88.39.
Gold futures locked in a 1% gain Thursday as the precious metals market recovered from a two-day selloff and as markets in Europe and the U.S. looked to a three-day weekend. June gold gained $16 to $1,630.10, and May silver closed at $31.73, up 68.6 cents.
Oil futures rose Thursday, with analysts and traders pointing to short covering ahead of the long weekend as the likely cause. May crude gained $1.84 to $103.31 a barrel, May gasoline gained a fraction to $3.34 a gallon, and May distillates also gained a fraction to $3.16 a gallon.
Natural-gas futures sank Thursday, settling at a fresh 10-year low after weekly data showed the surge in U.S. gas stockpiles continues. May Natural gas fell 5.2 cents, to $2.08.
On Wall Street, the markets ended the holiday-shortened trading week in the loss column as traders grew nervous once again about the debt situation in Europe and grappled with the prospect of the Fed not unleashing another round of asset purchases. The Dow fell 14 to close at 13,060, the Nasdaq closed at 3,080, up 12 and the S&P 500 dropped a fraction to finish the week at 1,398.