Corn soars on estimate of small harvest

SANDY SHORE, AP Business Writer

The price of corn soared 5 percent Thursday after the government predicted that this year's harvest could be the smallest in six years.

Corn for December delivery rose 36.5 cents to finish at $7.7325 per bushel. Soybeans and wheat prices also rose.

The U.S. Agriculture Department predicted that the corn harvest would total about 10.7 billion bushels, which would be the smallest since 2006. The yield was forecast at an average of 122 bushels per acre, which would be the lowest since 1995.

Nearly 70 percent of the drought-damaged crop has been harvested, which suggests that supplies will remain short domestically and globally ahead of the South American harvest early next year.

Traders speculated that supplies will dwindle as demand remains strong this winter. That has led some livestock producers and other businesses that use corn in products to consider buying now rather than face the risk of being short during the winter, said Mike Zuzolo, president of Global Commodity Analytics & Consulting LLC.

Consumers probably will see higher prices for meats and other products that contain corn by early next year, he said.

Although the government increased its forecast for soybean production from last month's estimate, the total harvest was estimated at 8 percent less than a year ago.

Even if South American growers produce a record crop of soybeans next year, global stockpiles probably will remain short, Telvent DTN analyst John Sanow said.

Soybeans for November delivery rose 25.25 cents to finish at $15.485 per bushel and December wheat ended up 16.25 cents at $8.86 per bushel.

In other trading, oil prices rose on worries that supplies from the Middle East could be disrupted by tensions between Turkey and Syria. The two countries have traded artillery fire over Syria's northern border throughout the past week.

Benchmark oil rose 82 cents to finish at $92.07 per barrel, heating oil increased 4.4 cents to $3.2571 per gallon and natural gas gained 12.9 cents, or 3.7 percent, to $3.604 per 1,000 cubic feet. Wholesale gasoline fell 0.37 cent to $2.9556 per gallon.

Most metals prices rose. In December contracts, gold increased $5.50 to end at $1,770.60 per ounce, copper rose 3.35 cents to $3.7515 per pound and palladium gained $1 to $650.90 per ounce.

January platinum rose $11.10 to $1,689.60 per ounce as labor conflicts continued at South African platinum mines.

December silver fell 2.7 cents to finish at $34.082 per ounce.