Natural Gas Settles Below Key $4/mmBtu for Fifth Day

U.S. lean-hog futures settled mostly higher, supported by expectations for tighter hog supplies in the weeks ahead. Thinly traded CME May hog futures, which expire Tuesday, slipped 0.07 cent, or 0.1%, to 91.92 cents a pound. Most-active June futures rose 0.42 cent, or 0.5%, to 90.92 cents a pound. Other contracts were mostly higher.

U.S. live-cattle futures settled slightly higher Monday, supported by the futures' heavy discount to cash prices for cattle. June live-cattle futures, the front-month contract, rose 0.12 cent, or 0.1%, to $1.2057 a pound at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. August live-cattle prices picked up 0.1 cent, or 0.1%, to $1.2087 a pound. Most other contracts were narrowly higher.

Feeder-cattle futures settled lower as corn prices rallied Monday. Corn, the most widely used feed grain, rose on concerns about tight near-term supplies and planting delays for this year's crop. Some cattle traders expect prices for young cattle to decline if feed costs remain high. Most-active August feeder-cattle futures shed 0.42 cent, or 0.3%, to $1.4620 a pound.

U.S. corn futures led grain and oilseed futures to strong gains Monday, sustaining the price strength into the session's close. Front-month futures hit a six-week high as the market reversed Friday's decline following the U.S. government's monthly crop forecast.  Chicago Board of Trade corn for May delivery settled up 30 1/4 cents, or 4.4%, at $7.18 a bushel. Corn futures for July delivery, the most actively traded contract, finished up 19 1/4 cents, or 3%, at $6.55 1/2 a bushel.  Corn futures for near-term delivery spiked to a six-week high, reflective of a market faced with tight availability of domestic inventories. Corn basis levels–the gap between cash prices for physical supplies and futures–firmed at many locations across the Corn Belt as end users from processors to exporters continue to push for coverage. Traders also were nervous that some heavy rains expected to move across the Midwest later in the week could cause additional planting delays.

Wheat futures settled higher in unison with corn, drawing added support from lingering concerns about spring plantings and winter-wheat crops in the Great Plains. July wheat futures ended up 5 1/2 cents, or 0.8%, at $7.09 3/4 a bushel at the Chicago Board of Trade. Kansas City Board of Trade July wheat rose 7 3/4 cents, or 1%, to $7.66 1/2 a bushel. MGEX July wheat finished up 3 3/4 cents, or 0.5%, at $8.12 1/2 a bushel.
Cotton futures eased Monday after the U.S. Department of Agriculture forecast a record global surplus of the fiber at the end of next season and a slowdown in China's imports of the fiber. Cotton for delivery in July on ICE Futures U.S. was down 1.3% at 85.35 cents a pound.

Oil futures settled lower for the third straight session, weighed by concerns over weakening demand in China and robust global production. Futures headed lower after data released Monday showed Chinese industrial output in April came in at 9.3% above last year's level–an improvement over a tepid March reading but under the 9.5% forecast by analysts surveyed by The Wall Street Journal. Light, sweet crude for June delivery settled 87 cents, or 0.9%, lower at $95.17 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude on the ICE futures exchange recently settled $1.09, or 1%, lower at $102.82 a barrel.  Monday's fall is the latest decline in crude prices, as signs of strong supply in the U.S. and elsewhere keep a lid on gains. Front-month June reformulated gasoline blendstock, or RBOB, settled 3.93 cents, or 1.4%, lower at $2.8210 a gallon. June heating oil settled 1.52 cents, or 0.5%, lower at $2.8910 a gallon.

Natural-gas futures settled slightly higher Monday, edging up from a five-week low as a seasonal demand lull puts pressures on prices. Prices settled below $4 per million British thermal units for a fifth straight session. That's the longest string of sub-$4 settlements since late March. June delivery gas futures on the New York Mercantile Exchange settled up 1.5 cents at $3.925/mmBtu.

Gold futures settled slightly lower as traders grew worried that demand for the physical metal was slowing as purchases during a key Indian festival fell short of expectations. Gold futures settled down $2.30, or 0.2%, at $1,434.30 a troy ounce on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Wall Street ended little changed on Monday as investors took a breather after indexes hit more record highs last week, but stronger-than-expected retail sales data kept declines in check. The Dow Jones dropped just 26 points to close at 15091. Nasdaq gained 2 points to 3438. The S&P 500 was unchanged at 1633.

At the livestock auction held Friday in Siler City a total of 1,085 cattle and 80 goats were sold. Slaughter cows trended mixed, 4.00 lower to 50 cents higher; bulls were steady to 4.50 higher. M&L 1-2 feeder cattle, 400-600 lbs., trended mixed. Average dressing slaughter cows brought $72-$82.50, with high dressing up to $92. Average dressing slaughter bulls, 1000 lbs. & up, sold from $96-$99.50, with high dressing ranging $102-$104. M&L 1-2 feeder steers, 400-500 lbs., brought $130-$153, 500-600 lbs. ranged from $130-$143. 400-500 lbs. M&L 1-2 feeder heifers ranged $114-$137 and 500-600 lbs. were $109-$132.

The North Carolina broiler-fryer market was steady and the live supply was adequate to meet the moderate demand. Average weights were heavy. The estimated slaughter for Monday in North Carolina was 2,893,000 head compared to 2,851,000 head last Monday.

U.S. 2 yellow shelled corn trended 19 to 31 cents higher when compared to last report. Prices ranged $7.06-$7.68 at feed mills and $6.76-$7.38 at elevators. U.S. 1 yellow soybeans trended 20 to 33 cents higher and were $14.99 at processors, and $14.04-$15.21 at elevators. U.S. 2 soft red winter wheat trended five to six cents higher, quoting $5.60 at elevators. Soybean meal, f.o.b. at processing plants, was $485.10 per ton for 48% protein.

Fruit and vegetable prices (shipping point f.o.b.): Greens: Demand moderate. Market about steady. Various containers bunched/loose Kale $7-$8 occasional higher, Collard, Mustard, and Turnip Tops $6.50-$7. Strawberries: Demand fairly light. Market about steady. Includes palletizing and cooling. Flats of 8 1-pound containers with lids medium-large $12-$14 mostly $13-$13.50. Sweet Potatoes: Demand moderate. Market about steady. 40 pound cartons Orange Types U.S. No. 1 $13-$15 few higher and lower, U.S. No. 1 Petite $10-$12 few higher and lower, U.S. No. 2 $7-$9 few lower occasional higher, No Grade Marks jumbo $6-$7 few higher and lower. 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.