U.S. livestock: Bearish fundamental outlook pressures CME live cattle

(Photo courtesy Canada Beef Inc.)

Chicago | Reuters — Chicago Mercantile Exchange live cattle futures posted modest losses on Friday in anticipation of soft cash and wholesale beef values in the weeks ahead, traders said.

Spot December ended down 0.1 cent/lb. to 121.45 cents, and February 0.275 cent lower at 126.25 (all figures US$).

“Until we can get a prolonged up in beef prices, it’s going to be hard to put any real money on cash and futures,” said Oak Investment Group president Joe Ocrant.

The wholesale choice beef price on Friday afternoon dropped 58 cents/cwt from Thursday to $202.50. Select cuts slumped $2.04, to $186.43, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data.

Packers this week bought market-ready, or cash, cattle at $118 to $121/cwt, as much as $6 below last week’s prices, feedlot sources said.

Analysts and traders said that outside of steaks and roasts, overall beef demand will take a back seat to Christmas gift buying and New Year’s celebrations.

Meanwhile, they said, processors are thought to have sufficient numbers of cattle to see them through the upcoming holiday-shortened work weeks.

The government estimated this week’s cattle slaughter at 581,000 head, 21,000 more than a week ago.

CME live cattle futures selling and the exchange’s drop in the feeder cattle index undercut feeder cattle contracts. January finished 0.925 cent per lb lower at 152.125.

Weak hogs futures settlement

Most CME lean hogs contracts settled in positive territory, with strength from short-covering, bargain hunting and technical buying, traders said.

December futures, which will expire on Dec. 14, was guided by its closeness to CME’s hog index for Dec. 9 at 56.6 cents.

Spot December closed 0.225 cent/lb. lower at 56 cents. February ended 1.325 cents higher at 60.55 cents, and April up 1.45 cents to 64.7.

Futures buyers cited three days of wholesale pork price advances, helped by year-end holiday ham business.

Still, cautious market bears pointed to possibly lower cash values amid abundant supplies heading into the year-end holidays.

USDA data showed cash hogs in Iowa/Minnesota on Friday afternoon, on average, sold at $52.15/cwt, 49 cents lower than on Thursday.

The afternoon’s wholesale pork price of $74.41/cwt was up 47 cents from Thursday, mostly supported by the more than $5 increase in ham costs, the USDA said.

This week, packers are on track for a USDA-estimated 2.426 million head kill, including 236,000 head on Saturday.

Theopolis Waters reports on livestock markets for Reuters from Chicago.

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