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RAIN FORECASTS PUSH GRAIN FUTURES HIGHER AT CHICAGO BOARD OF TRADE

SHARE RAIN FORECASTS PUSH GRAIN FUTURES HIGHER AT CHICAGO BOARD OF TRADE

Forecasts of rain in the wheat-growing Plains and drought in the eastern corn belt helped push grain futures prices higher Friday at the Chicago Board of Trade.

On other commodity markets, cattle and meat prices closed higher; crude oil retreated after reaching an eight-month high the day before; and all precious metals except silver posted gains.Forecasters say drought conditions will persist in the eastern Midwest, where dry soils threaten the corn crop. Wet weather in the Plains is expected to delay the harvest of winter wheat in Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas.

"It's a weather market as of right now," said Jason Roose, a broker for U.S. Commodities Inc. in West Des Moines, Iowa.

The past seven days have seen less than an inch of rain in parts of Illinois, Indiana and Ohio. In the Plains, golf ball-size hail caused isolated damage in addition to delaying the harvest of winter wheat.

Wheat for July delivery was up 3 cents to $3.383/4 a bushel; July corn improved 2 cents to $2.731/4 a bushel; July oats were up 1/2 cent at $1.181/2 a bushel; and July soybeans were up 91/4 cents at $6.82 a bushel.

Cattle futures closed higher at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange on news of large packer purchases, said Charles Levitt, senior livestock analyst at Alaron Trading Corp. in Chicago.

Live cattle for June delivery closed up 1.20 cents to 65.52 cents a pound; August feeder cattle improved 0.95 cent to 73.50 cents a pound; live hogs for June delivery were up 1.05 cents to 47.02 cents a pound; and frozen July pork bellies were up 1.93 cents at 42.25 cents a pound.

Lumber futures continued to show gains on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange in anticipation of a mill strike in British Columbia.