Wheat and soybean futures prices rose Friday on the Chicago Board of Trade following reports of unexpectedly strong export demand and forecasts of unfavorably dry weather.
On other commodity markets, precious metals gained; crude oil prices weakened further despite an escalation in the crisis in Nigeria; and cattle futures mostly fell.The Commodity Research Bureau's index of 21 commodities fell 0.23 point to 229.77.
A drought in Australia has damaged the wheat crop in many areas of the country. Analysts anticipate a greater demand for American wheat as a result.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates the 1994-95 Australian wheat crop at 12.5 million tons - a large drop from last year's final estimate of 17.9 million tons.
The Australian drought will add to already high demands for wheat.
"We have a very active wheat export lineup next week, and that lent some support to the market," said Steve Freed, director of research for ADM Investor Services in Chicago.
Soybean prices also were driven up by dry weather. Weather forecasters predict continued mostly dry weather in parts of the Midwest, especially east of the Mississippi River.
Soybean prices were further bolstered by an unexpectedly high export demand for soybeans. The USDA's report on weekly exports showed 93,000 tons of soybeans sold to Brazil last week - an unexpectedly high figure at such an early date.
"Basically, the export sales to Brazil are a factor in here," said Dale Durchholz, a market analyst for AgriVisor Services in Bloomington, Ill. "It really came earlier than it normally does."
Wheat for September deliver ended up 5 cents at $3.531/2 a bushel; September corn was up 3/4 cent at $2.21 a bushel; September oats were up 1 cent at $1.241/4 a bushel; and August soybeans finished up 61/4 cents at $6.031/4 a bushel.
At the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, cattle and livestock prices were pushed lower by excessive supplies.
Live cattle for August delivery dropped 0.05 cent to 68.55 cents a pound.