COMMODITIES : Soybeans Leap to Record; Grains Higher

From Associated Press

Soybean futures prices skyrocketed and grain futures also advanced Friday after the National Weather Service predicted a month of drier-than-normal growing conditions.

On other markets, precious metals were higher; cattle futures rose while pork futures were mixed; energy futures were slightly higher, and stock index futures advanced.

Soybean futures, which had posted strong gains in five of the six previous sessions, leaped as much as 14 cents a bushel on the Chicago Board of Trade and set new contract highs across the board.

The National Weather Service said in its 30-day outlook that the Ohio River valley, central Mississippi River valley and the Mississippi Delta region would all be drier than normal.

The large speculative firms Refco Inc. and C & D Commodities led the trading, analysts said.

"They were using that forecast as an excuse to rally the (soybean) market," said Jon Horton, an analyst at Research Department Inc. in Chicago. "It's still a bull market, so everyone's back in it on the long side."

Some private forecasters also reduced their predictions for rain over the weekend, said Mickey Luth, soybean analyst with Shearson Lehman Hutton Inc.

The soybean market is particularly sensitive to weather concerns because of indications that the U.S. soybean stockpile is dwindling and a large crop is needed to meet expected demand.

Wheat settled 3.50 cents to 4.75 cents higher, with the contract for delivery in May at $3.06 a bushel; corn was 0.75 cent to 1.25 cents higher, with May at $1.97 a bushel; oats were 0.50 cent to 2 cents higher, with May at $1.5725 a bushel; soybeans were 9 cents to 14 cents higher, with May at $7.195 a bushel.

The surge in soybean futures supported expectations for higher inflation, which helped boost precious metals futures prices, analysts said.

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