GRAINS MOSTLY FIRMER... As of 6:30 a.m. CT, corn futures are trading steady to 2 cents lower, soybeans are mostly 5 to 12 cents lower, Chicago wheat is 2 to 3 cents lower, Kansas City wheat is 1 to 2 cents lower, while Minneapolis wheat is steady to fractionally higher. The U.S. dollar index is modestly firmer this morning.
CHINA BIRD FLU UPDATE... China has now reported 14 instances of the H7N9 bird flu virus, with six of those cases resulting in deaths. The latest death was in the eastern province of Zhejiang. All of the deaths have been in eastern China. Meanwhile, China has reportedly culled 20,000 birds from an Shanghai market and the market has been closed, according to the state-run Xinhua news agency.
TEMPERED JOBS REPORT EXPECTATIONS... The Labor Department is expected to show the U.S. economy added 200,000 non-farm payrolls in March, according to the average guess of economists polled by Reuters. But after a disappointing private sector jobs report from ADP and a four-month high in jobless claims yesterday, some economists are scaling back their expectations. Economists expect the unemployment rate to remain at 7.7%.
USDA SIGNALS NO REPORT RELEASE TIME SHIFT AS CME HOUR CHANGE APPROACHES... As the shift in grain and soybean futures trading hours takes effect next week, USDA sources say there are "no plans at this time" to change the release times of key USDA reports. The agency moved its reports release time to 11 a.m. CT, effective in January, in response to the longer trading day put in place by the CME Group in 2012.
JAPAN MULLS FURTHER EASING REQUIREMENTS FOR U.S. BEEF... Japan's Food Safety Commission concluded that meat of domestic cattle aged less than 48 months does not pose any serious health risks to humans even without BSE/Mad Cow inspections, effectively recommending relaxing the BSE inspection requirement from the current age threshold of 30 months to 48 months for domestic and imported beef. The commission's recommendation does not apply to beef derived from U.S., Canadian, French, and Dutch cattle for now, but the commission said it would hold discussions about the viability of relaxing the threshold on beef originating from these countries. The commission's Prion Expert Committee recommended to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare to relax the BSE inspection requirement threshold to less than 48 months from 30 months now. The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare is expected to urge local governments to discontinue domestic all-cattle inspections, which they have been conducting on a voluntary basis since 2001, as well as to reduce substantially subsidies for the voluntary inspections.
BOXED BEEF MARKET CONTINUES TO SPUTTER... Retailers continue to show resistance to high boxed beef prices as packers moved only 144 loads of product Thursday. With temps finally starting to warm a little and grilling season just around the corner, retailers would typically be actively buying beef. But their reluctance to buy suggests packers may favor pork and poultry over beef -- at least early in the grilling season -- due to high beef prices.
SOLID PACKER DEMAND FOR CASH HOGS... Packers are again expected to pay steady to firmer prices for cash hogs across the Midwest today as they compete for a seasonally tightening supply of animals. But some plants may soon resist paying higher money for cash hogs if cutting margins don't strengthen.
OVERNIGHT DEMAND NEWS... Jordan tendered to purchase 100,000 MT of optional origin wheat. India received no interest in its tender to export 65,000 MT of wheat.