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Corn futures closed as they spent the day: down 5-6 cents. The trade was apparently not impressed by relatively good export movement: The grain inspection report for the week ended Feb. 26 reported 1.280 MMT, up from under 907K metric tons the prior week and 1.057 MMT last year at this time. About 861K metric tons were inspected at the Gulf, 251K in the PNW and 116K at interior locations. Sorghum exports also are holding up well, at almost 205K, down 24% from the prior week, but two and a half times the amount last year.
Soybean futures closed sharply lower on the day, with the March contract ending the session down 19.5 cents after it poked out a new high for the move during the overnight session. Contrary to corn, export inspections reported at 635K this week are down close to 35% from the prior week and the same week for the prior year, as the seasonal drop off begins. YTD inspections slipped to 113.6% of last year for this date. China was the top destination by far, with nearly 231K inspected on the Mississippi and another 198K in the PNW.
Wheat futures deepened their losses by the close in Chicago and Kansas City, while Minneapolis ended just 1 cent lower. Hard red spring, hard red winter, and soft white winter wheat export inspections all came in between 129K and 130K metric tons for the week ended Feb. 26, while SRW was under 62K. The total, at 450K, was down 15% from the prior week and 26% from last year as US shippers continue to struggle with world competition. The US Dollar Index held firm today, posting small gains and stopping just short of multiyear highs; standing at 95.468 as this was written. The PNW led in inspections, at almost 229K metric tons, while the Gulf total was nearly 158K; smaller amounts were inspected on the east coast and at interior locations. The indicated crop insurance guarantee for spring wheat is $5.85/bu., 10% below the $6.51 that applied last year.
Live cattle and feeder futures posted solid gains today with more strength in the front couple months. Feeders were also in the green and nearby March was the strongest, up $2.20 on the session. Cash sales were slim last week and quiet to start this week. The CME feeder cattle index for Friday was $206.24, down $1.48. Slaughter today was estimated at 109K head, up from only 99K a week ago but down from 113K a year ago. The Choice boxed beef average price in the afternoon report was $248.67, up $1.09 from Friday, but Select prices averaged 12 cents lower. Tightening supplies are not just a US phenomenon: The cattle herd in Australia is expected to hit a 20-year low by June due to extended drought, according to an Australian government report. The authors suggest the third largest beef exporter will ship 1.16 MMT in the year starting July 1, down from 1.2 MMT in this marketing year, as slaughter drops by more than 6% to 8.9 million head. The report also predicts shipments to the US - important for hamburger supplies – could slump by 10% to 380K metric tons.
Lean hog futures finished the day mostly with gains from 17 to 40 cents. The July hogs were up 45 cents, finishing at $83.62. The Thursday CME Lean Hog index, at $64.49, was up $1.11. Cash hog base prices were up 16 cents in the WCB, and 9 cents in the IA/MN marketing area. ECB prices were confidential. Hog slaughter is seen up 2,000 head from a week ago, at 432,000 head, but 37K head more than the same week a year ago. The pork carcass cutout was down 84 cents in the afternoon report. Butt were the only cut in positive territory on the day.
Cotton futures ended mixed after a mild rally this morning. March and May ended down a fraction of a penny while July and October gained a fraction. California growers got bad news Friday when they were notified that federal water will not be available for the second year in a row. Cotton acreage has already fallen more than 42% in California, from 367K acres in 2012 to 212K last year as producers struggle with lack of water and in some cases shift toward high-value crops such as nuts to maximize income from the water they do use. ICAC expects the largest stocks outside of China in the last 35 years. Global production is projected to exceed consumption by 2.1 million tons in 2014/15. The Cotlook A Index is 71.50, down 0.25.