U.S. lean-hog futures ended higher on Thursday, extending their recent rally amid a tightening supply outlook and technical buying. Lean hog futures for June delivery closed up 0.65 cent, or 0.7%, to 97.3 cents per pound, a fresh 10-month high for the spot contract. August lean hog futures closed up 0.825 cent, or 0.9%, to 94.525 cents, a four-month high. The market is getting a boost from relatively tight supplies, due in part to last year's drought, along with concerns that supplies will continue to tighten due to a virus affecting piglets in parts of the U.S.
Prices have rallied since a Chinese company announced it was buying Smithfield Foods last week. The deal has fueled optimism that China will be importing more U.S. hogs, although some traders think the optimism is misplaced, or that any boost to U.S. exports is still a long way off.
U.S. live cattle futures ended slightly higher, rebounding from Wednesday losses. Traders say the market remains rangebound, with concerns about domestic demand limiting the upside. CME live cattle for June closed up 0.2 cent, or 0.2%, to $1.2045 a pound. CME August feeder cattle closed up 0.05 cent, or 0.03%, to $1.4465 a pound.
U.S. wheat futures finished mixed, with winter wheat contracts pressured by improved weather outlooks for developing crops, while spring wheat futures climbed on the threat of acreage losses due to planting delays. July wheat futures ended down 3 3/4 cents, or 0.5%, at $6.97 3/4 a bushel at the Chicago Board of Trade. Kansas City Board of Trade July wheat dropped 4 3/4 cents, or 0.6%, to $7.38 1/2 a bushel. MGEX July wheat finished up 4 1/4 cents, or 0.5%, at $8.20 1/4 a bushel.
U.S. corn futures finished higher, with tight supplies buoying nearby contracts, while the uncertainty of 2013 production potential supported contracts for deliver later in the year. CBOT corn for July delivery, the most actively traded contract, finished up 2 1/2 cents, or 0.4%, at $6.63 1/4 a bushel. The December contract settled up 6 cents, or 1.1%, to $5.48 1/4.
U.S. soybean futures ended lower Thursday, as investors took profits on prior bets after spot-month prices rallied to seven-month highs earlier in the week. Chicago Board of Trade soybeans for July delivery finished down 4 3/4 cents, or 0.3%, at $15.27 1/4. The November soybean contract settled up 5 3/4 cents, or 0.4%, to $13.05 3/4.
Cotton futures gained Thursday after the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported net sales of 184,200 bales for the week ended May 30, up 80% from the prior four-week average. For the upcoming 2013-14 marketing year, which begins on Aug. 1, the agency reported sales of 138,400 bales of upland variety cotton. Exports also continued to be robust at 276,600 bales, down 1% from the prior four-week average.
The sales underscored concerns about short-term availability of the fiber, with the current season wrapping up on July 31 and the new crop in the U.S., the No. 1 exporter of the fiber, not available until October.
Crude-oil futures settled higher Thursday as the dollar tumbled and concerns grew about the strength of the U.S. recovery ahead of Friday's jobs data. Light, sweet crude for July delivery settled $1.02, or 1.1%, higher at $94.76 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, the highest since May 28. Front-month July reformulated gasoline blendstock, or RBOB, settled 2.79 cents higher at $2.8509 a gallon. July ULSD heating oil settled 1.60 cents higher at $2.8714 a gallon.
Natural-gas prices tumbled Thursday to their lowest level in two and a half months, after a U.S. government report showed a sharp rise in the amount of the fuel in storage last week. Natural-gas stockpiles rose 111 billion cubic feet last week, well above the 95-bcf rise projected in a Dow Jones Newswires survey of analysts, suggesting weaker-than-expected demand for the fuel during the week. The rise was biggest injection–and the first triple-digit addition to gas storage–since October 2011. Natural gas for July delivery settled 17.4 cents, or 4.4%, lower at $3.827 a million British thermal units on the New York Mercantile Exchange, the lowest settlement since March 14.
Gold futures settled at their highest level in more than three weeks as the dollar retreated against major foreign currencies. Dollar-denominated gold futures become less expensive for investors who use other currencies when the dollar weakens, luring these investors to the market as buyers. Gold for August delivery settled up $17.30, or 1.2%, at $1,415.80 a troy ounce on the Comex division of the Nymex.
The Dow climbed 80 points to close the day at 15040. Nasdaq was a gainer as well, jumping 22 to 2424. The S&P 500 settled higher by 0.9% despite having to endure early weakness, closing at 1622, up 13.