Corn Falls on Improved Weather

By: AP
By: AP

NEW YORK (AP) -- Corn prices fell sharply Friday as forecasts for dry weather in the U.S. corn belt eased concerns that farmers will have to delay their spring planting.

Other commodities were mixed, with gold and silver declining and copper and energy futures trading higher.

Corn prices have shot up 23 percent this year amid dwindling stockpiles and surging demand to feed livestock and make alternative fuels such as ethanol. Cold, rainy weather in the U.S. corn belt has threatened to delay spring planting and further tighten supplies, but dry weather expected over the weekend could allow farmers to begin planting on time.

"The dry weather might help farmers get out there, start spring planting. It won't help everyone but it's having an effect on prices," said Jason Ward, an analyst with Northstar Commodity in Minneapolis.

Corn for May delivery fell 10 cents to settle at $5.8425 a bushel on the Chicago Board of Trade, its lowest level this week. It closed at a record $6.05 a bushel on Wednesday, so some profit-taking was expected.

Corn first breached the $6 threshold last week after the government predicted that American farmers - the world's biggest corn producers - will plant sharply less of the crop in 2008 compared to last year. The Department of Agriculture projected that farmers will plant 86 million acres of corn in 2008, an 8 percent drop.

Other agriculture futures also fell Friday. Wheat for May delivery dropped 26.5 cents to settle at $8.965 a bushel on the CBOT, while May soybeans lost 23.5 cents to settle at $13.325 a bushel.

Meanwhile, gold futures were off slightly Friday as investors bet that falling physical demand for the metal could curb high prices.

Gold for June delivery fell $4.80 to settle at $927 an ounce on the New York Mercantile Exchange, after earlier dropping as low as $920.50.

Other precious metals ended mixed. Silver for May delivery lost 35.3 cents to settle at $17.690 an ounce on the New York Mercantile Exchange, while May copper rose 2.05 cents to settle at $3.9445 a pound.

In energy futures, oil prices rose slightly after trading lower for much of the day, but remained more than $2 below an all-time high set earlier in the week.

Light, sweet crude for May delivery rose 3 cents to settle at $110.14 on the Nymex. On Wednesday, crude hit a trading record of $112.21 a barrel.

Other energy futures also gained ground. May gasoline futures rose 1.52 cents to settle at $2.8073 a gallon, while May heating oil futures rose 0.35 cent to end at $3.1975 a gallon.

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