U.S. live cattle futures rebound with cash prices

Chicago Mercantile Exchange live cattle futures closed higher on Friday as steady cash prices helped futures recover from Thursday’s sell-off, traders and analysts said.

Cash cattle in the U.S. Plains traded at $124 to $125 per hundredweight (cwt) on Friday, which was mostly steady with last week, said feedlot sources.

“Packers needed cattle for next week but didn’t overpay because of ample supplies,” said Oak Investment Group president Joe Ocrant.

Fund buying and short-covering on the last trading day of the month put futures up marginally for the week.

But CME live cattle were down 5.8 per cent for the month of May — their biggest monthly decline since 11.36 per cent in May 2011.

“It doesn’t matter that beef prices are at historic highs and futures are way underpriced versus cash, the market kept going down in search of the summer seasonal lows,” a trader said.

June live cattle futures closed above their respective 20-day and 40-day moving averages of 120.525 and 121.042 cents, triggering fund buying. They closed at 121.3 cents, up 0.95 cent per pound (all figures US$).

August punched through the 10-day and 20-day moving averages of 119.405 and 120.031 cents, finishing 1.4 cents higher at 120.45 cents.

Futures gained traction despite sagging wholesale beef values. Supermarkets have what need for the weekend, traders said.

U.S. Department of Agriculture data on Friday afternoon quoted the wholesale price of choice beef, or cutout, down $1.90 per hundredweight (cwt) from Thursday at $206.65. Select cuts were at $187.20, $1.89 lower.

Feeder cattle futures drew support from the gains in CME live cattle while firmer corn prices limited advances.

CME feeder cattle ended flat for the week and up 3.4 per cent for the month.

August feeder cattle futures ended up 0.15 cent/lb. to 144.325 cents and September settled at 146.575 cents, or 0.225 cent higher.

Hogs gain on fund buying

CME hogs gained modestly as fund buying offset selling prompted by lower cash hog and wholesale pork prices, said analysts and traders.

“Funds did all the buying guided by their technical indicators,” said independent livestock futures trader Dan Norcini.

Local and commercial traders may have sold anticipating cash hog and the pork prices may be near their seasonal peaks.

“One has to wonder how much longer will packers continue to chase hogs given the state of what’s going on fundamentally,” said Norcini.

Friday afternoon’s USDA data showed the average hog price in the most-watched Iowa/Minnesota market at $91.15/cwt, $2.09 lower than on Thursday.

The government’s Friday afternoon mandatory wholesale pork price, or cutout, calculated on a plant-delivered basis, was $94.31/cwt, down 72 cents from Thursday.

CME hogs closed up nearly one per cent for the week while rising 6.1 per cent for the month.

June hogs closed 0.3 cent/lb. higher on Friday at 95.625 cents and July gained 0.375 to 93.85 cents.

— Theopolis Waters reports for Reuters from Chicago.

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