Grains Rise on Calmer Oil Prices


NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Grain commodities received a major boost Friday afternoon on strong fundamental data and easing concerns surrounding the threat of rising unrest in the Middle East and North Africa.

"Some of the very large hedge fund-type traders were lightening up on grain since last week and were aggressive sellers lightening up for the early part of this week -- until today, really," said Terry Roggensack of commodity research firm The Hightower Report.

May wheat prices settled Friday's trading session at $8.11 ¼ a bushel, up 3.7% and May corn settled at $7.22 a bushel, up 3.7%. Soybeans for May delivery closed at $13.75 a bushel, up 3.4%.

The surge in wheat and corn prices were based on strong fundamentals, but soybeans were merely rebounding in sympathy.

On Friday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported soybean export sales data for last week. It totaled a lower-than-expected 252,600 metric tons. But export sales data for wheat and corn were better-than-expected at 1.15 million metric tons and 1.65 million metric tons, respectively.

Corn supplies have been tight and demand, strong, driven by exports, ethanol and livestock feed demand. "There's an 18-day supply of corn at the end of this crop year, matching the tightest that we've ever had," Roggensack said.

On Friday, oil prices were stabilizing as markets turned their attention to key economic reports and a spate of positive corporate news and as Saudi Arabia reportedly hiked its oil production to help replace production lost to Libya's turbulence. Saudi Arabia has quietly increased its oil output by more than 700,000 barrels a day to more than 9 million barrels a day, according to Reuters, which cited an unidentified industry source.

Light sweet crude oil for April delivery settled at $97.88 a barrel, up 0.6% after hitting or breaching $100 a barrel for two days straight. The RICI-Agriculture ETN ( RJA) closed up 3.4% to $11.44 at the market close Friday, while the PowerShares DB Agriculture Fund ( DBA) rose 2.1% to $34.71. The iPath Dow Jones-UBS Grains Subindex Total Return ETN ( JJG) ended up 3.7% to $4.75 and the iPath Dow Jones-UBS Agriculture Total Return Sub-Index ETN ( JJA) advanced 3.9% to $65.81.

The Teucrium Corn Fund ( CORN) spiked 4% to $43.39.

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-- Written by Andrea Tse in New York.

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