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By the end of the day, corn futures had recovered better than a nickel of the 18-cent post-report losses seen Tuesday. Today, EIA reported weekly ethanol production averaged 952,000 barrels/day, off 1K from the prior week. Ethanol stocks tightened to 20.5 million barrels from 21.3 million the week before. Today USDA released its Grain Crushings and Co-Products report for February. Corn used for alcohol and other uses was 442.2 million bushels, down 11% from January and 13% from December. Fuel alcohol use was 395.8 million, down 11% and 13% from the prior two months. Keep in mind February has 9.7% fewer days, so the daily rate of corn use declined only modestly. Sorghum fell out of the fuel category in February, likely because it was going to export.
Soybean futures ended the day with double-digit gains on the heels of the 5-6.5 cents added Tuesday. Funds seem to be pushing some money toward beans, perhaps on the hope of a weather scare. With record acreage on tap, it is hard to see a sustainable rally right now, however. Seven states could plant record soybean crops based on the Intentions report. Alphabetically they are Kentucky, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota and Wisconsin. The biggest expected drops from 2014 are in Kansas and Nebraska.
Wheat futures also closed higher by double digits today. Wheat in western Nebraska is showing winterkill, according to the Nebraska Wheat Board. Some fields have 60-80% damage; less severely impacted fields, 40-50%. Soil moisture remains short and that part of the state falls just outside the area expecting rain and even severe storms tonight. Russia is raising support prices for 2015 wheat in an effort to halt rumored cuts in input use by producers, which could reduce yields. With US spring wheat intentions lower than expected, weather in the northern tier will draw some interest in the weeks ahead.
Live cattle finished mixed with April up almost a half dollar but later contracts down. April is a few dollars below the cash trade from last week. Feeder futures show the same pattern. The CME feeder cattle index is at $218.65, only a few cents above nearby April feeder futures. The cash cattle market is quiet, with some initial bids at $160. Cash asking prices are in the $167-168 area. Wholesale beef prices are higher again today, with USDA showing Choice boxes up $1.29 at $255.42 and Select up $1.57 at $250.21.
Lean hogs rose by nearly 48 cents on Wednesday. The CME lean hog index dropped 26 cents to $59.70. In the cash market, Iowa/Minnesota prices rose 14 cents to $56.54; Western Corn Belt prices gained 34 cents at $56.55. Eastern Corn Belt prices averaged $55.18. The pork carcass cutout dropped $1.38 to $63.98. Ham, with a nickel gain, was the only cut in the black. Pork consumption should be seasonally strong for Easter week, but that product is already in the final retail channel. Slaughter week to date, at 1.295 million, is slightly under last week but a hefty 80,000 head over a year ago.
Cotton futures were down a half cent or more with little news to offer support, although the US dollar index should have given this export-oriented market a little respite with a drop of 0.1380 to 98.2190 today. The export sales report tomorrow will be the next piece of data that could sway the market. Friday’s monthly unemployment report also could have some influence since at least some components of cotton use are still tied to consumer financial well-being. The Cotlook A Index is 69.45, down 0.90. Certified stocks for March 31 were UNCH at 11,011. There are 0 bales awaiting review.