On a day when most of the market slipped, prices for wheat, corn and soybeans moved higher.
Wednesday was a down day for prices for most stocks, metals and energy commodities, as investors worried about the still-sluggish U.S. economy and were underwhelmed by the Federal Reserve's latest plan to boost it. The investors who sent agricultural commodities higher weren't any more optimistic — they were just fearful that poor weather could crimp crop supplies.
The price of wheat rose the most, more than 2 percent, as investors worried that a hot, dry summer in the Midwest could affect crops. Investors bid up agricultural prices on Monday and Tuesday as well on the same concern.
The price increases were more modest than they had been earlier in the week, thanks to rain Wednesday in a few Midwestern states, said Jason Ward, market analyst at Northstar Commodity Investment Company in Minneapolis.
Still, rainfall is down severely in some areas. In parts of Iowa, the country's No. 1 producer of corn, some areas have received less than half an inch of rain so far this month, Ward said. The average for June is more than 5 inches.
Wheat for July delivery rose on Wednesday, the first day of summer, rising 14.5 cents to $6.64 per bushel. December corn rose 3 cents to $5.665 per bushel. November soybeans rose 11 cents to $13.955 per bushel.
In stocks, the Dow Jones industrial average and the Standard & Poor's 500 suffered small losses, and the Nasdaq composite index was virtually flat, after the Fed announced it would extend a program aimed at lowering long-term interest rates. Investors were unimpressed by the Fed's action, or unnerved by the Fed's prognosis of the still-weak economy, or a combination of both.
Gold and silver both moved slightly, but in opposite directions. August gold fell $7.40 to $1,615.80 per ounce. July silver rose 2.1 cents to $28.389 per ounce.
The industrial metals — palladium, copper and platinum — all fell. Their movements are closely linked to investors' forecasts for manufacturing and construction.
The biggest percentage change was in palladium for September delivery, which fell $9.90, or 1.6 percent, to $619.50 per ounce. July copper fell 4.6 cents to $3.3875 per pound. July platinum fell $13.70 to $1,466.80 per ounce.
Oil prices dropped notably. Like industrial metals, the price of oil is tied to predictions about construction and manufacturing. A government announcement about a surprising jump in U.S. oil supplies also contributed to the price drop.
Benchmark U.S. crude fell $2.23, or 2.7 percent, to end the day at $81.80 per barrel in New York. That's the lowest level since October. Brent crude, which is used to price much of the oil imported into the U.S., lost $3.07 to finish at $92.69 per barrel in London, the lowest since December 2010.
Gasoline lost 5.13 cents to finish at $2.5902 per gallon, heating oil lost 4.77 cents to end at $2.5874 per gallon, and natural gas: lost 2.8 cents to end at $2.517 per 1,000 cubic feet.