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Corn futures ended the day with gains of 3-4 cents. Private exporters reported a sale of 131,172 MT of corn to unknown destinations this morning. The weekly export inspections report from USDA showed 762,276 MT shipped during the week ending March 26. That was down from the previous week and also below year ago. Sorghum inspections were smaller than the previous week, but still more than the same week a year ago. Corn planting in the south continues to be well behind, with Louisiana reporting 16% completed vs. the 5 year average of 81%. Texas reports 20% planted vs. an average of 43% for this date. Depending on which survey you read, trade guesses for the USDA acreage intentions are slightly below the 89.0 million acre figure that was in the USDA Ag Outlook Forum in February.
Soybean futures settled a tick or two higher on the day, with bean meal contracts a little stronger. Weekly export inspections reported by USDA this morning were up nearly 20% from last week and 29% larger than the same week a year ago. Total export commitments as of March 19 are near 100% of the current USDA projection for 2014/15 exports. Shipments YTD are 153 million bushels ahead of year ago. The surveys show the trade expecting USDA to show planting intentions of about 85.9 million acres, up about 2.2 million from last year. Some estimates run as high as 88 million total soybean acres. US January biodiesel production totaled 72 mgal, similar to the 73 mgal for January 2014 but down from 123 mgal in December 2014.
Wheat futures show strong gains, with Minneapolis up less than 16 cents and the other two contracts up almost a quarter. The enthusiasm is mostly spec buying tied to a weekend article in Barrons about how tight stocks will be in 2015/16 as a % of the quantity usually in global trade (rather than the more conventional % of use). The weekly export inspections in the USDA report this morning were lousy, coming in about 40% smaller than the previous week. The weekly state crop reports show creeping maturity, and some stress. In Oklahoma, where little rain fell, winter wheat jointing reached 38% by Sunday, up 11 points from the previous year and down 5 points from normal. Nebraska is rated 29% poor or very poor, with 34% good or excellent. The Kansas crop is rated 17% poor/very poor 42% fair and 41% good/excellent. In Texas, warm weather caused winter wheat to continue to progress in development and in South Texas, it is entering heading. Wheat is rated 10% excellent, 45% good, 35% fair and 10% poor or very poor.
Live cattle futures finished mixed while feeder cattle dropped 65 cents in April and even more in May as feedlots faced a combination of lower cattle futures and higher feed grains. The CME feeder cattle index rose $1.02 to $217.73. It is too early in the week to see much action in the cash live cattle market, though purchases may take place a day or so sooner this week given futures given the Friday holiday. USDA reports Choice boxes 90 cents higher at $251.70 and Select up 91 cents at $247.62.
Lean hog futures closed on a positive note with gains from 2.5 cents to 55 cents as traders decided the Hogs and Pigs report didn’t warrant much further downside at this time. USDA reported a 7.2% gain in hog numbers vs. the PED depressed reading from year ago, about what the trade expected. Late fall and 2015 contracts posted triple digit gains on the smaller than expected farrowing intentions. June-August farrowing intentions were down 2.1% from year ago. The pork carcass cutout gained 4 cents, at $65.39. In the cash market, Iowa/Minnesota cash hog prices were up 74 cents at $56.62 and Western Corn Belt prices, up 61 cents at $56.44.The CME lean hog index dropped 42 cents to $60.39.
Cotton futures dropped 87 to 103 points, hurt by a surge in the US dollar index. The Cotlook A index is down 10 cents at 69.85. Attention is turning to acreage and weather prospects for the 2015 crop. A Dow Jones survey put the average trade estimate for cotton acreage at 9.44 million, with a range of 9.0-9.6 million. The USDA report will be on Tuesday at 11 am CDT. Certified stocks for March 27 crept up to 10,292 bales, with 521 new certs. Field work continues to be hindered by excess moisture in southern and the Gulf portion of Texas, where more than 3” of rain fell last week. Mississippi had 0.6 day suitable for field work. No Texas cotton has been reported planted yet.