- Associated Press - Friday, March 7, 2014

NEW YORK (AP) - Hog prices are rising for the fourth straight week as a swine virus threatens to crimp the supply of pork.

The April contract for lean hogs rose 0.6 cents, or 0.5 percent, to $1.13 a pound on Friday. The price has climbed 6 percent this week and is up about a third since the start of the year.

U.S. pigs are being infected with the porcine epidemic diarrhea virus, which can be deadly for new-born pigs. The spread of the virus is raising concern that less pork will be available as seasonal demand picks up. The U.S. produces close to one-third of the world’s pork exports.

“We are seeing a crunch in market-ready hogs,” said Rick Kment a livestock analyst at DTN. “The availability of fresh pork supplies is getting significantly tighter.”

The concerns about supply come against a backdrop of improving demand.

As the economy improves, people eat more meat, Kment said. Demand for meat also typically picks up as grilling season approaches. Cattle futures have also climbed since the start of the year.

In other trading of commodities products, wheat and soybeans rose. Corn fell.

Wheat for May delivery rose 8 cents, or 1.2 percent, to $6.54 a bushel. Soybeans for the same month climbed 19.75 cents, or 1.4 percent, to $14.58 a bushel. Corn for May fell 2 cents, or 0.4 percent, to $4.89 a bushel.

In metals trading, copper plunged on concerns about the health of the Chinese economy. China is one of the world’s largest consumers of the metal, which has many industrial uses.

May copper fell 13.55 cents, or 4.2 percent, to $3.08 a pound. Silver for the same month fell 64.6 cents, or 3 percent, to $20.93 an ounce. Gold for April delivery dropped $13.60, or 1 percent, to $1,338.20 an ounce.

Platinum for April fell $3.20, or 0.2 percent, to $1,483.60 an ounce. Palladium for June rose 65 cents, or 0.1 percent, to $781.80 an ounce.

In energy trading, the price of oil rose $1.02, or 1 percent, to $102.58 a barrel after a solid increase in hiring by U.S. employers last month.

Wholesale gasoline rose 2.8 cents, or 1 percent, to $2.97 per gallon. Heating oil added 2.9 cents, or 1 percent, to $3.01 per gallon. Natural gas fell 4 cents, or 0.9 percent, to $4.62 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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