Feeders Drop Back From Record Highs

Lean hog futures were mostly lower as weaker prices in cash markets pointed to falling demand from pork packers. February hog futures fell 0.05 cent, or 0.1%, to 87.75 cents a pound in trading at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. CME April hog futures fell 0.6 cent, or 0.7%, to 89.75 cents a pound.

U.S. live cattle futures fell Thursday as a stronger dollar added to lingering concerns that demand from beef packers is weakening. Cattle for February delivery closed down 0.55 cent, or 0.4%, at $1.2515 a pound in trading at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. April cattle traded lower by 0.32 cent, or 0.3%, at $1.289 a pound. January feeder cattle fell 0.3% to $1.5537 a pound, pulling back from their latest record high, recorded Wednesday.

US wheat futures backtracked, ending lower amid profit-taking and ideas the market was overbought on yesterday's rally. Traders say recent gains on severe cold in Russia and Ukraine may have reflected a "buy the rumor" scenario, and traders were now selling the fact. Uncertainty about Russian exports limits losses, but traders say even if the country enacts restrictions, world supplies are ample. CBOT March wheat fell 11 1/2c to $6.62 3/4 a bushel, a day after hitting a fresh four-month high. KCBT Wheat dropped 4 3/4c to $7.17 3/4; MGEX March wheat closed down 3/4c to $8.36.

US soybean futures ended modestly higher, trading in tandem with movement in the US dollar. Prices traded in both negative and positive territory, with USD fluctuations in focus as uncertainty about South American output offset fundamental pressure from sluggish export demand, analysts say. Without a fundamental event to direct prices, traders eyed outside markets, playing more of a waiting game in the absence of directives to break futures out of their recent trading range, analysts add. CBOT March soybeans ended up 1 3/4c to $12.17/bushel.

Soy product futures edged higher, mimicking the up and down price movements of soybeans Thursday. The markets lacked fresh fundamental directives to push prices, leaving traders focused on outside markets for guidance, analysts say. Two-sided price action in the US dollar index produced mixed action in soymeal and soyoil. CBOT March soymeal ended up $1.10 to $323.40/short ton; March soyoil finished up 0.01c to 51.19c/pound.

Cotton futures ended the session at higher, despite the higher dollar. March cotton closed at 94.21, up 82, and the May contract at 95.49, up 70.

U.S. crude oil futures tumbled to a fresh six-week low, falling below $97 for the first time since Dec. 19, on weak demand and rising supplies. The combination of falling demand and resulting rising inventories in the world's biggest oil consumer is putting significant pressure on prices, which may now make a further downward move toward $90 a barrel, last hit in late October. Light, sweet crude oil futures on the New York Mercantile Exchange settled $1.25, or 1.3%, lower at $96.36 a barrel.

Gasoline stocks rose by 3 million barrels last week, far surpassing the rise of 200,000 barrels that was expected. Reformulated gasoline blendstock futures for March delivery settled 2.33 cents lower at $2.8689 a gallon, while March heating oil settled 0.74 cent higher, at $3.0529 a gallon.

Natural gas futures traded higher Thursday after the government said U.S. gas inventories fell slightly more than expected last week, suggesting more natural gas demand than previously thought. Natural gas for March delivery traded 5.7 cents, or 2.4%, higher at $2.439 a million British thermal units on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Gold futures gained on Thursday for the sixth time in seven sessions, settling at the highest level in 11 weeks as the Federal Reserve chief urged Congress to tackle the fiscal challenges facing the U.S. Gold for April delivery, the most actively traded contract, rose $9.80, or 0.6%, to settle at $1,759.30 a troy ounce on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange, the highest settlement price since Nov. 16.

Wall Street ended the day mixed with the Dow dropping 11 points to 12705. The Nasdaq gained 11 to 2859. The S&P 500 edged up 1 at 1325.

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