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Natural Gas Prices Jump 4 Percent

U.S. lean-hog futures traded narrowly lower Thursday, as market participants took profits ahead of further information about how the heavy snowfall in "hog country" is affecting production and delivery of pork supplies. February lean hogs were down 0.45 cent, or 0.5%, to 86.12 cents a pound at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. April hogs are down 0.65 cent, or 0.7%, to 90.8 cents a pound.

U.S. live-cattle futures were lower Thursday, as traders took profits from the nine-month high reached Wednesday in the front-month contracts. Buying interest was down Thursday, as market participants await news of possible transportation delays due to a winter storm that began to move through the central U.S. Wednesday night. The December live-cattle contract was down 0.525 cent, or 0.4%, to $1.2895 a pound at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. February cattle futures, the most actively traded contract,  were down 0.825 cent, or 0.6%, to $1.33525 a pound. Feeder cattle are also lower. The January contract recently dropped 0.52 cent, or 0.3%, to $1.5297 a pound. March feeder cattle were down 0.32 cents, or 0.2%, to $1.5542 a pound.

U.S. wheat futures traded at five-month lows Thursday, pressured by technical selling and precipitation for part of the country's winter wheat crop. In electronic trading, Chicago Board of Trade futures for March delivery were down 15 3/4 cents, or 2.0%, at $7.90 a bushel. Kansas City Board of Trade March wheat was down 12 cents, or 1.4%, at $8.46 a bushel. MGEX March wheat was down nine cents, or 1.0%, at $8.86 1/2 a bushel. The drop is adding to price declines made Wednesday and comes after wheat futures last week first broke well below their trading range of the previous few months.

US grain and soy futures stayed lower as trading ended after a day of widespread technical selling and liquidation by speculative funds. Soybeans are pressured by China canceling a large order of US soybeans for the second time this week. Corn is pressured by worse-than-expected sales in a weekly USDA export report. Wheat is pressured by the declines in corn and soy. With prices yet to settle but trading done, CBOT Jan soybeans were down 28c at $14.09 a bushel. March corn was down 6 3/4c at $6.96 1/4. CBOT March wheat was down 15 1/4c at $7.90 1/2.

Cotton futures are easing as the USDA's latest export-sales report merely met expectations. Net sales of 333,900 bales for the week ended Dec. 13, up 18% on-week but 4% below the average of the prior month. Half of the latest sales were to top-consumer China. The report is "nothing to get real excited about," says INTL FCStone's Gary Raines. But he notes that Turkey, Taiwan and Pakistan also being big buyers is encouraging for the market's demand outlook. ICE cotton for March delivery was 0.6% lower at 75.42c/pound in very thin trade.

At the 3 livestock auctions held Wednesday at Smithfield, North Wilkesboro and Norwood a total of 683 cattle and 154 goats were sold. Slaughter cows trended $4.50 to $5.00 higher, feeder steers trended steady to $3.00 lower, and heifers trended $6.00 to $15.00 higher when compared to the sales last week. Average dressing slaughter cows brought $70.00 to $82.50. Average dressing slaughter bulls, 1000 lbs. & up, sold at $85.50 to $93.00 with high dressing up to $100.00. M&L 1-2 feeder steers, 400-500 lbs. brought $140.00 to $165.00, 500-600 lbs. brought $129.00 to $146.00. 400-500 lb. M&L 1-2 feeder heifers ranged $125.00 – $159.00 and 500-600 lbs. were $127.00 – $135.00.

Cabbage: Demand moderate. Market about steady. 50 lb cartons Round Green
Type med 7.00-7.50 occasionally 8.00.
Greens: Demand fairly good. Market about steady. Various containers bunched/loose Collard, Kale, Mustard, and Turnip Tops 6.50-7.00 occasionally higher.
Sweet potatoes: Demand fairly good. Market about steady. 40 lb cartons Orange Types U.S. No. 1 13.00-15.00 some 11.00-12.00 few higher. U.S. No. 1 Petite 10.00-12.00 few higher and lower. U.S. No. 2 7.00-9.00, mostly 8.00-9.00, few lower occasionally higher. No Grade Marks jumbo 6.00-8.00, mostly 6.00-7.00, few lower occasional higher.

Crude oil futures reversed morning declines and closed Thursday's session at a fresh two-month high on colder weather forecasts and improving economic data. The commodity, which has generally traded in a tight $85-to-$90 range since mid-October, settled at $90.13 a barrel in futures for February delivery on the New York Mercantile Exchange, up 0.2% on the day. That's the highest settlement price since Oct. 18 and marks the fifth straight rise. Gasoline futures settled at $2.754 a gallon, up 1.1 cents.

Natural-gas futures prices rose 4.3% to settle a two-week high Thursday on a larger-than-expected drop in inventories and forecasts for colder end-of-year temperatures. Despite the 14.2-cent rise, which was the largest single-day gain since Dec. 5, prices remained in the upper end of a two-week trading range. January-delivery natural gas settled Thursday at $3.462 per million British thermal units.

Wall Street ended green with the Dow Jones jumping 59 points to close at 13311. The Nasdaq gained 6 to 5060. The S&P 500 scored 7 points to close at 1443. is dedicated to serving the agricultural industry in the Carolinas and Virginia with the latest ag news, exclusive regional weather station readings, and key crop market information. The website is a companion of the Southern Farm Network, provider of daily agricultural radio programming to the Carolinas since 1974. presents radio programs, interviews and news relevant to crop and livestock production and research throughout the mid-Atlantic agricultural community.