CHICAGO (Dow Jones)--Chicago Board of Trade corn futures ended higher after a late surge fueled by fund-buying, traders said, and the market had a bullish close above $4.

December corn ended up 5 1/4 cents to $4.03 1/2 per bushel and March corn ended up 4 3/4 cents to $4.14 3/4.

The market has been taking its cue from the dollar recently, and Thursday was no different, said Vic Lespinasse, analyst with grainanalyst.com. He said a weaker dollar late in the day helped fuel gains, as did weather forecasts that were wetter for parts of the corn belt.

After some progress in the first half of this week, farmers are likely being sidelined and could continue to be sidelined through next week because of rain. The late harvest is raising concerns about the quality of the crop, if not the yield.

Bears point out that even with the harvest delays, a very large crop approaching 13 billion bushels is expected this year.

The market had traded both sides for most of the day. A trader said the late gains were merely funds "dressing up the close," and that the fundamentals don't warrant $4 corn prices. Thursday was the first day nearby corn prices settled above $4 since June.

Funds bought an estimated 7,000 contracts Thursday. Traders said regardless of fundamentals, the market could continue to climb as long as the dollar remains weak and fund money pours into commodities.

The rally is certainly not being led by demand, traders and analysts said. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported "horrible" weekly net export sales, said Jason Britt, president of Central State Commodities. The weekly total was under 250,000 metric tons, well below last week's total and trade expectations.

"You have to say 'wait a second, we still have to sell $4 corn,'" Britt said.

Analysts add that higher corn prices are also bad news for livestock producers. Ethanol demand remains strong due to strong margins, however.

CBOT oats ended higher. December oats ended up 1 1/4 cents to $2.64 1/4 per bushel and March oats ended up 1 1/2 cents to $2.77 1/4.

Ethanol futures were mixed. November ethanol ended up $0.007 to $1.988 per gallon and December ethanol ended down $0.002 to $1.920.


-By Ian Berry, Dow Jones Newswires; 312-341-5778; ian.berry@dowjones.com