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Soybeans hit all-time high as Isaac swirls north

The price of soybeans hit at an all-time high Thursday on expectations that Tropical Storm Isaac may cause more damage to crops that already have been battered by the drought.

Soybeans for September delivery rose 9 cents to finish at $17.7025 per bushel. That topped the previous record high of $17.575 per bushel set July 20. The most active contract, for November delivery, rose 10.5 cents to end at $17.635 per bushel.

Isaac was a Category 1 hurricane when it made landfall Monday in Louisiana. Although it has weakened, the storm still is packing heavy rain and high winds as it swirls into the heart of the nation's cropland.

Some reports of flooded soybean fields have been coming in as the front edge of the storm moved into the Delta and parts of some states, including Arkansas, Illinois and Indiana, Telvent DTN analyst Darin Newsom said.

"Some of those places still had some pretty good looking beans and now I've heard talk of anywhere from 2 to 8 inches of rain in a very short period of time," he said. "A crop that was questionable at best to begin with is now facing some more problems."

The storm is hitting when the soybeans are in the final phases of growth and don't need a lot of moisture, he said. Winds also could flatten soybean plants and corn stalks.

Global soybean supplies are critically low while demand remains strong. And nearly 40 percent of the U.S. crop is in poor to very poor condition as the harvest is about to start.

Wheat for December delivery fell 2.75 cents to finish at $9.03 per bushel. December corn dropped 5 cents to $8.085 per bushel.

In other trading, most metals and oil prices fell ahead of Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's speech Friday to an annual economic conference in Wyoming.

Hope has been fading among traders that Bernanke will offer some idea of what, if any action, the Federal Reserve may take to help the economy grow. But there have been more positive signs about the U.S. economy that could prompt the Fed to stay its course.

Dave Meger, a vice president of metals trading at Vision Financial Markets, noted that an updated U.S. jobs report will be released next week, which could provide more clues for Federal Reserve officials. And the Fed has a meeting scheduled in a couple of weeks where it could make a decision about additional stimulus measures.

Gold for December delivery fell $5.90 to end at $1,657.10 per ounce, December silver fell 47.6 cents to $30.446 per ounce and September copper dropped 0.2 cent to $3.4405 per pound. October platinum lost $16.60 to $1,503.70 per ounce and September palladium ended down $19.95 at $614.90 per ounce.

Benchmark oil fell 87 cents to finish at $94.62 per barrel, heating oil rose 0.88 cent to $3.1245 per gallon, gasoline dropped 1.77 cents to $3.0826 per gallon and natural gas rose 6.3 cents to end at $2.748 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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