U.S. grain and soybean futures fell in quiet, pre-holiday trade as abundant world inventories and demand concerns pressured prices for American crops.
Soybean futures declined to a one-week low, weighed down in part by forecasts for improving weather in northern and central Brazil, which could boost the health of that country’s crop. Fresh forecasts for rainfall in January boosted hopes for Brazil’s crop on Thursday, spurring prices lower as traders also considered the already-plentiful world soybean supplies. Stronger-than-expected export sales of the oilseeds stemmed losses in the market, however, analysts said.
Soybean futures for January fell 6 1/2 cents, to $8.75 1/4 a bushel at the Chicago Board of Trade, the lowest closing price since Dec. 16.
Trading in Chicago grain and oilseed futures ended at noon CT Thursday. Futures markets for agricultural products will reopen on Monday.
Grain prices also slid to fresh three-week lows, buffeted by ample world reserves and stiff export competition worldwide. Export sales for corn and wheat last week were roughly in line with analyst expectations, according to government data, though prices drifted lower as buyers exited the markets prior to the Christmas holiday.
Losses in the corn market were limited by a weaker U.S. dollar and higher prices for crude oil, as well as reports that prices for the grain had reached a level at which they are now competitive on the global market.
CBOT March corn dropped 1 cent, to $3.64 1/2 a bushel, the lowest settlement price since Dec. 2.
The wheat market drew some support Thursday from improved demand for hard-red winter wheat, grown in the U.S. Plains, and speculation that demand could improve further in weeks to come, according to analysts.
CBOT March wheat shed 2 cents, to $4.67 1/2 a bushel, the lowest closing price since Dec. 3.
U.S. cattle and hog futures closed solidly higher on a quiet Christmas Eve session as traders eyed the potential for somewhat tighter beef and pork supplies.
February-dated live cattle futures climbed 0.023 cent, or 1.8%, to close at $1.37 a pound, moving higher throughout Thursday’s holiday-shortened trading session at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange as a massive winter storm sequence loomed over the southern U.S. plains, and meatpackers offered firmer prices for live animals in cash markets.
April-dated contracts settled 0.02 cent higher at $1.38 a pound, gaining 1.6%. January feeder cattle contracts edged up 0.04 cent to settle at $1.63 a pound.
Lean hog futures settled 0.52 cent, higher at 58.3 cents a pound, gaining momentum after a U.S. Department of Agriculture report suggested that the pace of U.S. hog expansion could slow, with the domestic crop of piglets smaller than analysts had expected.
April-dated hog contracts climbed 1.4 cent to settle at 65.07 cents a pound at the CME.
While hog futures prices climbed 3% last week, putting the market roughly back where it was at the beginning of December, analysts cautioned that the gains could be temporary as the domestic pipeline of animals shows heavy hogs on the way, which would add greater quantities of pork to an already massive supply that has pushed hog futures prices down by about 28% so far this year.
Livestock futures markets were closed Friday for Christmas