* Corn surges above $8.29/barrel, highest ever for the grain * Brent crude up 1 pct on dropping output, encouraging US data By Barani Krishnan NEW YORK, Aug 9 Corn prices hit record highs on Thursday as investors girded for the U.S. government to slash its crop output foreast after the worst drought in half a century, and benchmark Brent crude rose for a fifth day on encouraging economic data. Soybeans also rallied, up 3 percent for the day's biggest gain on the Chicago Board of Trade, after confirmation that top consumer China had bought a fresh supply of U.S. soy. In other crop markets, cocoa ended at a nine-month high and at technically overbought levels, partly due to weather concerns in West Africa. Raw sugar dropped for an eighth straight day and to a 6-week low on ample Brazilian supplies. Copper ended down in London and gold rose in very thin New York trade. The Thomson Reuters-Jefferies CRB index, the commodity market bellwether, hit a three-month high as more than half of the 19 markets it tracked settled higher. U.S. corn rose 1 percent to a record high of $8.29-3/4 per bushel, before settling at $8.23-3/4. A Reuters poll of 21 analysts this week pegged the U.S. corn yield at 127 bushels per acre, the lowest since 1997, with production at a six-year low, ahead of the USDA August crop report due on Friday. The USDA report has taken on extra importance since the estimates will be based on surveys of farmers and its own experts inspecting fields for the first time since the drought began to rally prices in mid-June. Oil prices were lifted by stronger-than-expected U.S. economic data, a lower outlook for North Sea Brent production and persistent hopes for economic stimulus. London's Brent crude closed up $1.08, or 1 percent, at $113.22 a barrel, the highest settlement for front-month Brent since May 3. The session high was $113.43. U.S. crude recovered settled a penny higher at $93.36. "The general mood is bullish - any dip is still being used as a buying opportunity," said Carsten Fritsch, an energy analyst at Commerzbank in Frankfurt. "Given the supply risk, with falling North Sea output and the closure of three oil ports in Mexico, all this should lend support to prices," he added. Analysts said economic data also fed investor hopes for U.S. growth prospects and the energy demand outlook. New claims for jobless benefits in the United States fell last week, and a separate report showed the trade deficit in June was the smallest in 1-1/2 years. Prices at 5:45 p.m. EDT (2145 GMT) LAST/ NET PCT YTD CLOSE CHG CHG CHG US crude 0.00 0.00 0.0% -100.0% Brent crude 113.38 1.24 1.1% 5.6% Natural gas 2.945 0.000 0.0% -1.5% US gold 1620.20 4.20 0.3% 3.4% Gold 1616.39 5.10 0.3% 3.4% US Copper 342.50 0.35 0.1% -0.3% Dollar 82.601 0.207 0.3% 3.0% CRB 304.810 0.490 0.2% -0.2% US corn 823.75 10.25 1.3% 27.4% US soybeans 1631.25 50.00 3.2% 36.1% US wheat 930.00 12.50 1.4% 42.5% US Coffee 166.45 -4.05 -2.4% -27.1% US Cocoa 2463.00 0.00 0.0% 16.8% US Sugar 20.99 -0.38 -1.8% -9.6% US silver 28.097 0.022 0.1% 0.7% US platinum 1411.70 2.60 0.2% 0.5% US palladium 586.70 0.20 0.0% -10.6% (Editing by David Gregorio)
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