Natural-gas Futures Climb for Third Day

U.S. lean-hog futures were pressured by the dollar's move, as traders priced in caution around the pace of pork exports. CME June hog futures shed 0.67 cent, or 0.7%, to 91.92 cents a pound, after carving out a two-week high for that contract the day before. July hogs slid 0.55 cent, or 0.6%, at 91.85 cents a pound. Hog futures have been underpinned by the seasonal expectation for tighter supplies of slaughter-ready animals in the late spring and early summer, due to hog birthing patterns, paired with a normal uptick in demand for grilling meats around that time.

Live-cattle futures settled lower Wednesday, pressured by a strengthening U.S. dollar, which introduced weakness across the commodities markets. June live-cattle futures slid 0.77 cent, or 0.6%, to $1.20 a pound at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. August live-cattle prices fell 0.55 cent, or 0.5%, to $1.11985 a pound. Other contracts were all lower. Feeder-cattle futures, too, declined. Most-active August feeder-cattle futures slipped 1.12 cents, or 0.8%, to $1.453 a pound.

Wheat futures stayed lower as trading ended Wednesday, pressured by technical selling and expectations for wheat supplies to be adequate. Chicago Board of Trade July wheat futures settled down 17 cents or 2.4% at $6.93 3/4 a bushel, a two-week closing low for the contract. Selling in wheat futures picked up when the benchmark contract fell below its trading range of recent days, which technical traders took as a signal that further declines were likely. Wheat was also pressured by a stronger dollar, which makes U.S. wheat exports more expensive for foreign buyers.

Corn futures fell on expectations for warmer, drier weather this week to allow for a substantial pickup in corn planting in the Midwest, easing worries about planting delays for the new crop. Soybeans fell on lower-than-expected data on the amount of soybeans "crushed," or processed, in April in the U.S. July corn fell 1 3/4 cents or 0.3% to $6.50 3/4 a bushel. July soybeans fell 2 cents or 0.1% to $14.12 3/4 a bushel.

Cotton futures eased Wednesday morning under the pressure of a stronger U.S. dollar, which is compounding weak demand from foreign mills at current prices. Cotton for July delivery on the ICE Futures U.S. exchange traded 1% lower at 86.04 cents a pound.

Crude-oil futures ended a turbulent session little changed, after a report showed an unexpected drop in U.S. oil stockpiles but also pointed to sliding gasoline demand. Oil stockpiles in the world's biggest consumer fell 600,000 barrels last week, the Energy Information Administration said, bucking expectations for no change. But gasoline demand slumped to a two-month low and fuel-product inventories rose sharply. Light, sweet crude for June settled 9 cents, or 0.1%, higher at $94.30 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell as much as 2.3%, to $92.13 a barrel intraday following the EIA's weekly report, but spent the afternoon recovering those losses. Front-month June reformulated gasoline blendstock, or RBOB, settled 2.94 cents, or 1%, higher at $2.8670 a gallon. June heating oil, which trades as a proxy for diesel, settled 0.71 cent, or 0.3%, higher at $2.8801 a gallon.

Natural-gas futures climbed for a third day, settling up 1.1% at a two-week high amid unseasonably warm temperatures in parts of the Midwest. June-delivery gas futures on the New York Mercantile Exchange settled 4.6 cents higher, at $4.07 per million British thermal units, the highest price since May 1. Prices are up 4.1%, or 16 cents, in the past three days from a five-week low of $3.91/mmBtu.

Gold dropped below $1,400 a troy ounce Wednesday, approaching prices not seen since its historic plunge a month ago. Tame U.S. inflation data helped trigger heavy selling in the gold market Wednesday, where many investors hold the metal as a hedge against the threat of rising consumer prices. The dollar's sharp rise has also made gold more expensive for buyers using other currencies. June gold futures ended down 2% at $1,396.20 a troy ounce, the lowest settlement since April 19. Meanwhile, silver prices fell 3.1% to $22.658 a troy ounce, the lowest settlement since Oct. 7, 2010.

Stocks rose on Wednesday, with the Dow and S&P 500 hitting new all-time highs in a broad market rally as the recent upward momentum persisted. The Nasdaq also hit its highest level since November 2000 although gains were limited by a steep decline in Apple. The Dow jumped 60 points Wednesday to close at 15275. The Nasdaq was up 9 at 3471. The S&P 500 rose 8 points to close at 1658.


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