U.S. livestock: Cattle trade bullish on potential exports to Japan

CME December 2019 live cattle with 20-, 50- and 100-day moving averages. (Barchart)

Chicago | Reuters — U.S. live and feeder cattle futures on Friday surged to their highest prices seen in nearly a month, as the cash market began to firm and traders grew more bullish about export demands after the U.S. and Japan signed a limited trade deal this week.

The first-phase deal would open up Japanese markets to some $7 billion worth of U.S. products annually, cutting Japanese tariffs on U.S. beef, pork, wheat and cheese, U.S. President Donald Trump said earlier this week (all figures US$).

Meanwhile, feeder cattle are trading above where they were before a fire at a Tyson Foods slaughterhouse last month removed a key buyer from the market, sending prices tumbling.

The slaughterhouse remains closed for repairs but meat packers have been killing more cattle at other facilities in the meantime.

U.S. hog futures were mixed on Friday, as traders continued to wrestle with disappointing pork export sales to China and a cash market prices that seem unusually depressed, analysts said.

The market has been waiting for a serious push in pork exports, traders said, because China struggles with an outbreak of African swine fever, a fatal pig disease that has decimated its herd over the past year. The disease has also spread to Vietnam, South Korea and other countries.

“We’re in a supply bear market,” said Don Roose, president of U.S. Commodities in West Des Moines, Iowa. “Our basis levels are way distorted.”

Adding to those hog market pressures, traders said, is the fact that the U.S. has a huge herd.

After the market closed on Friday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that the total U.S. hog herd was up more than 103 per cent as of Sept. 1, compared with the same period a year earlier — the highest Sept. 1 inventory of all hogs and pigs since the estimates began in 1988.

That exceeded analysts expectations of 102.8 per cent, according to a Reuters survey.

December lean hog futures finished down 0.525 cents at 69.85 cents/lb. at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.

In the beef market, December live cattle futures closed up 1.825 cent at 110.575 cents/lb.

November feeder cattle futures closed up 1.525 cent at 142.975 cents/lb.

— P.J. Huffstutter reports on agriculture and agribusiness for Reuters from Chicago.

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