Markets For Thursday, December 22, 2016

Grain futures fell for a third consecutive session, pressured by generous global supplies and few serious production concerns around the world. Soybeans rebounded from a one-month low.

Corn prices declined to a two-week low as traders eyed strong crops in Brazil
Corn futures for March slid 3 cents, or 0.9%, to $3.47 1/4 a bushel at the Chicago Board of Trade, the lowest closing price since Dec. 8.

Wheat prices dropped below the psychologically significant $4 a bushel mark, buffeted by concerns over demand for U.S. supplies and warming U.S. weather. Egypt, the world’s largest wheat buyer, recently purchased grain from Russia, Argentina and Romania, underscoring the relative competitiveness of exports from those regions.

Prices for wheat eased further as weather forecasts called for temperatures to climb in the U.S. Midwest – where soft-red wheat is grown – following a cold snap that endangered crops across the nation’s wheat belt.

CBOT March wheat futures declined 3 3/4 cents, or 0.9%, to $3.99 1/2 a bushel.

Soybean prices nudged higher after sliding to a one-month low on Tuesday, boosted by export demand and technical buying.

CBOT January soybeans added 1 1/2 cents, or 0.2%, to $10.06 3/4 a bushel.

Hog futures resumed their upward climb Wednesday, though questions persisted over continued demand for a wave of pork coming to market. Cattle futures also gained.

February-dated lean hog futures settled 1.4% higher at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, regaining much of the prior session’s decline. Analysts continued to point to resilient overseas demand for U.S. pork products as a key factor behind a 27% rally in the market so far this month, despite meatpackers slaughtering around 2.5 million hogs a week.

Live cattle futures expiring in February gained 0.6% to settle at $1.1622 a pound at the CME, drawing some support from an online auction Wednesday in which about 2,900 cattle were sold at an average price of $1.1268 a pound, slightly higher than some analysts expected.

Robust wholesale beef prices, where choice cutout values were estimated Wednesday at $196.29 per 100 pounds, have also helped support cattle futures prices.

Cattle traders will get a broader look into the beef supply Friday when the USDA releases data on the number of animals placed into feedlots. Analysts on average expect to see a pickup in the number of cattle placed in November as well as a 16% rise in the number of cattle marketed that month,

The cotton market gained a boost Wednesday from a weaker dollar ahead of a weekly update on sales of the fiber overseas.

Cotton for March delivery rose 1.8% to 70.61 cents a pound on the ICE Futures U.S. exchange. Demand for cotton has been robust in recent weeks and traders are largely anticipating strong demand again in Thursday’s report. Bulls have piled into the contract over the last month and any surprise to the downside could lead to a sell off in those bets, which were at near record highs for the year as of last Tuesday.

The USDA reported that as of the week ended Dec. 15 it had classed 967,649 bales of upland cotton, the most common variety grown in the U.S., which brings the season total to about 75% of USDA’s expected production.

Stocks are closing slightly lower on Wall Street, led by declines in health care companies.

The modest declines Wednesday kept the Dow Jones industrial average slightly below the 20,000 mark. Merck and Pfizer had the biggest losses in the Dow.   The Dow slipped 32 points, or 0.2 percent, to 19,941.   The Standard & Poor’s 500 index lost 5 points, or 0.3 percent, at 2,265. The Nasdaq composite fell 12 points, or 0.2 percent, to 5,471.