4-24-14 â€“ Grain futures are slightly higher overnight in quiet trading as traders study the latest weather reports and try to gauge its effect on planting progress.\r\n\r\n Corn ended higher Wednesday as farmer selling slowed. Growers were either busy with fieldwork or they were getting ready â€“ too busy to take time in the office for more sales. The focus was on beating the coming rain to the fields.\r\n\r\n The latest forecasts call for rain to sweep across the Plains and then concentrate on the Corn and Soybean Belt. Current models have key states like Iowa, Minnesota and northern Illinois in the crosshairs.\r\n\r\n Rain in those areas will help soil moisture profiles, but farmers are itching to get into the fields. Most planting this week has been concentrated in the Delta and southern Midwest, and analysts expect the USDAâ€™s National Agricultural Statistics Service to report good progress in Mondayâ€™s weekly Crop Progress and Condition report.\r\n\r\n Corn futures appeared to run into resistance as July approached $5.10 a bushel. Traders were reluctant to go above this round-number barrier without some further planting delays, and forecasts call for early May warming.\r\n\r\n Strong export sales data also could take markets higher. Traders this week have reported sales to Mexico and to unknown destinations, adding to what has been a strong market this year.\r\n\r\n \r\n\r\nSOYBEANS WEAKEN AS CHINA FADES\r\n\r\n \r\n\r\n Soybean futures remain weak as market indigestion grows over an exporting industry has turned into an importing industry. China buyersâ€™ troubles with lines of credit for already-booked soybeans is causing some to resell South American commitments to US buyers at a discount.\r\n\r\n Those loadings are landing now at East Coast and Gulf ports as US export shipments fade seasonally, and mostly clear harvest weather in Brazil and Argentina makes South American beans cheaper.\r\n\r\n \r\n\r\nCONTINUED PLAINS DRYNESS SUPPORTS WHEAT\r\n\r\n \r\n\r\n Despite rain Wednesday and Thursday in the Plains, it wonâ€™t be enough to alleviate the overall dryness. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is due to release its latest drought monitor today, and traders will be watching for improvements, especially in the driest areas of the Texas Panhandle and surrounding areas into southwest Kansas.\r\n\r\n Hard Red Winter wheat already is suffering from drought. Mondayâ€™s NASS Crop Condition report showed no change in ratings in spite of recent rains.\r\n\r\n That makes it hard for the market to pressure prices greatly, and prices have a tendency to move higher as the dryness continues.\r\n\r\n \r\n\r\nCATTLE MARKETS TREAD LIGHTLY AMID REPORT FEARS\r\n\r\n \r\n\r\n Cattle futures markets are treading lightly amid fears that the feedlot population as of April 1 could be above a year earlier for the first time in 20 months. A Reuters survey of market analysts and economists shows an average guess of total inventories at 100.2% of a year ago with estimates ranging from 99.0% to 100.8%.\r\n\r\n Placements were expected to be above a year ago as well at 100.8% of a year ago. Record-high prices for slaughter-ready cattle were cited for the expected increase in placements.\r\n\r\n Feedlot marketings for slaughter were expected to be down in the On-Feed report after limited Fall placements.\r\n\r\n Cash markets remain quiet with no packer bids and asking prices around $148 per cwt on a live basis and $238 dressed. Futures remain at a discount to cash, which could pull cash markets lower.\r\n\r\n The USDA reported its choice beef cutout value Wednesday at $232.64 per cwt, up $1.43, while the select cutout rose $1.05 to $220.67. The choice/select spread widened to $11.98, and there were 103 fabricated loads sold into the spot market.\r\n\r\n The CME Feeder Cattle Index for the seven days ended Tuesday was $177.35, up $0.22, while the May futures contract settled Wednesday at $178.62, up $0.27. April live cattle settled at $143.92, up $0.22.\r\n\r\n \r\n\r\nIN OUR OPINION\r\n\r\n \r\n\r\n–Standing corn sale orders for inventory stored in commercial elevators are keeping the basis in check. \r\n\r\n–Chinese soybean buyers may default on more than 1 million tonnes of soybean purchases, mostly South American\r\n\r\n–Todayâ€™s drought monitor will show little change in overall Plains wheat conditions.\r\n\r\n–Lack of available pasture added to March placements.