Pork Higher in Light Monday Trading

U.S. lean-hog futures finished higher Monday, supported by outlooks for shrinking supplies of pork, matched with steady-to-stronger demand. February lean hogs rose 0.65 cent, or 0.75%, to 87.55 cents a pound at the CME. April hogs added 0.02 cent, or 0.03%, settling at 91.65 cents a pound. Trading volumes were low in the shortened Christmas Eve session.

Live-cattle futures finished lower Monday, weighed down by profit-taking after a government report last week showed higher-than-expected supplies of cattle entering feed lots. December live-cattle futures fell 0.1 cent, or 0.1%, to $1.2917 a pound at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. Most-active February futures declined 0.35 cent, or 0.3%, to $1.3322 a pound. Feeder cattle also fell. The January contract slid 0.65 cent, or 0.4%, to $1.515 a pound. The March contract dropped 0.5 cent, or 0.3%, to $1.5427 a pound.

U.S. wheat futures traded slightly higher Monday, continuing to stabilize after falling to 5 1/2-month lows last week. Chicago Board of Trade futures for March delivery were up 1 1/2 cents, or 0.2%, at $7.93 1/2 a bushel. Kansas City Board of Trade March wheat was up 1 1/4 cents, or 0.1%, at $8.43 1/4 a bushel. MGEX March wheat was unchanged at $8.81 1/2 a bushel. Wheat futures are finding stability amid improving export demand after a sharp recent price decline and ongoing worries about the health of the U.S. winter wheat crop in the Great Plains.

US soybean futures led a modest rise in grain markets. Soybeans settled up for the second straight session, continuing to rebound from steep recent losses amid some trader's views the declines were overdone, analysts say. A light volume of trade limited advances, as traders were cautious of taking on risk before Christmas. CBOT March soybeans settled up 6 1/2c at $14.35 3/4/bushel, March corn ended up 2 1/4c at $7.04 1/4, and March wheat settled up 1 3/4c at $7.93 3/4.

Crude-oil futures languished in light preholiday trade Monday as many chose to sit out rather than risk taking a loss if no deal is struck to avoid the looming fiscal cliff. "It just didn't appear there was a whole lot of desire or a whole lot of conviction on either side to do much of anything," said Kyle Cooper, managing partner of IAF Advisors in Houston. Crude for February delivery settled 5 cents, or 0.1%, lower at $88.61 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent, the European benchmark, finished down 0.2%, or 17 cents, at $108.80 a barrel.

Forecasts for milder weather in the coming weeks revived concerns about high storage levels of natural gas, sending the commodity lower Monday. Natural gas for January delivery settled at $3.346 a million British thermal units on the New York Mercantile Exchange, down 10.5 cents, or 3%.

Gold futures ended nearly flat Monday, starting the holiday-shortened week with slight losses as traders stuck to the sidelines on stalled U.S. budget talks. The most actively traded contract, for February delivery, slipped 60 cents to settle at $1,659.50 a troy ounce on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange.

In a short day on Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average slipped 51 points to 13139. The Nasdaq Composite Index slid slightly to 3012, down 8. The S&P 500 was almost unchanged at 1426, down 3.

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