CHICAGO (Dow Jones) -- Corn futures on the Chicago Board of Trade climbed Monday, surging to double-digit gains, as the market had a bullish response to forecasts pointing to further harvest delays for the Midwest corn-belt.

December corn ended up 14 1/4 cents at $3.86 1/4 per bushel, and March corn ended 14 1/4 cents higher at $3.98 per bushel. In pit trades, speculative fund buying was estimated at 8,000 lots.

Speculative-led buying was featured, maintaining upward momentum throughout the day, as a return of rain to the Midwest threatens harvest progress as well as field drying of corn crops with high moisture content, a CBOT floor analyst said.

The market remains sensitive to weather events, with only a small percentage of the crop harvested and a fair amount of acreage that has not reached maturity keeping traders eyeing weather models for near term direction.

Meanwhile, outside financial markets aided the rise. Weakness in the U.S. dollar and strength equity markets were bullish factors helping rekindle speculative buying interest in corn as well as across the commodity sector, analysts said.

The market is expected to continue to fluctuate on weather updates and outside markets until the 2009 crop is harvested and attention shifts from supply side fundamentals to a demand based picture.

Nevertheless, as long as there are harvest interruptions and crops have the potential for field losses, the trade will keep risk premium in the market.

Private weather firm T-Storm Weather said harvest should proceed in "sufficiently dry areas" through Wednesday night before rain spreads over the eastern half of the corn-belt Thursday. Widespread rainfall of three-quarters of an inch to 1 1/4 inches is expected, with locally higher totals, the firm said in a forecast.

Cool temperatures follow the rain from Friday through the weekend, which prevents rapid drying and harvest progress, according to T-Storm Weather.

U.S. Department of Agriculture will release its weekly crop progress report at 4 p.m. EDT, with harvest progress expected to be in a range of 18% to 20%, up from the prior week's 13%.

CBOT oat futures climbed with the rest of the floor. December oats jumped 7 1/2 cents to $2.59 a bushel, and March oats gained 7 1/2 cents to $2.71 3/4.

Ethanol futures were also higher. November ethanol closed 4 cents higher at $1.888 per gallon, and December ethanol rose 4.5 cents to $1.839.


-By Andrew Johnson Jr., Dow Jones Newswires, (312) 347-4604 andrew.johnsonjr@dowjones.com