Grain bulls take a breather
***** Corn futures down 5 to 5 3/4 cents; soybeans off 16 to 17 1/4; Chicago wheat lower by 6 1/4 to 6 1/2. *****

#Grains dipped lower on profit-taking that was triggered after the CONAB numbers came in. China trade talks are not officially in session and many crop reports remain undelivered due to the government shutdown, so fresh news was otherwise limited.
#CONAB dropped its estimate for Brazil soybean production from 120.1 to 118.8 million tons this morning and traders sold the news to suggest the cut wasnt big enough. Indeed, a crop near 119 mt is not far from last years record soybean output of 120.3 mt.
#Traders were also seen taking profit on the idea that South American weather could quickly improve and help to support a strong finishing stretch for the growing season. For now, though, the short-run forecast doesnt provide much rain for the key regions of Brazil while still threatening Argentina with too much moisture.
#The word on China has been quiet after a first round of face-to-face talks wrapped up on Wednesday. Chinese officials have pledged more U.S. ag purchases, but such deals may depend on progress determined by the next set of meetings with top-level negotiators, which are expected to take place later this month.
#A Chinese crop agency upped its estimate for the countrys soybean import needs, projecting total purchases at 87 million tons. That total would be a reduction from the 94 mt brought in a year prior. It was also estimated that Chinese soymeal usage would be down almost 5 percent this year due in large part to hogs lost to African swine fever.
#Ethanol production dropped for a fourth straight week while stocks of the fuel source rose. Corn grind was estimated at 102 million bushels and lags the pace needed to meet USDAs marketing year target (5.6 bbu). Low oil prices and costlier corn inputs have crimped ethanol production margins and place pressure on the industry.
#President Trump officially nominated Andrew Wheeler to head the EPA after Wheeler had been acting Administrator since former chief Scott Pruitt was ousted on alleged ethics violations. Wheeler is a former coal-lobbyist and has been accused of doing little so far to reverse course after Pruitt and the previous administration allowed millions of gallons worth of production waivers to various refiners. Wheeler will be tasked in part with implementing new rules to allow E-15 sales year-round.
#March corn futures made a bearish break below their major moving averages. Given up was support from the 10-, 20-, 50-, and 100-day moving averages that were clustered within the $3.77-$3.80 range. The bears will target Decembers low at $3.72 1/2 next while the bulls look at $3.82 3/4 and $3.84 1/2 for short-run upside objectives.
#Oil was up in follow-through of early-week strength that put nearby WTI crude futures back above $50 per barrel. On Wednesday, the government reported domestic oil inventories down by 1.7 million barrels from the previous week, but said they are still running about 8 percent higher than the five-year seasonal average.

***** Live cattle, feeder cattle, hog futures all fractionally firmer on the day. *****

#Cattle futures are consolidating near the top end of Tuesdays big rally, waiting for fundamental guidance from this weeks cash trade. Boxed beef prices were slightly firmer on the day to support the idea that cash values can hold steady with last weeks prints near $125.
# February hogs passed a test of technical resistance where the 50- and 100-day moving averages had run into each other. The board has little in the way of additional technical resistance before February would reach $66.80.