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U.S. livestock: Fund buying rallies hog futures

CME lean hogs ended higher on Wednesday, supported by fund buying after futures returned above technical resistance levels, traders and analyst said.

December hogs settled 0.825 cent per pound higher at 86.25 cents and above the 100-day moving average of 85.34 cents (all figures US$).

February closed up 1.025 cents at 90.925 cents. It finished above the 10-day and 40-day moving averages of 90.88 and 90.61 cents, respectively.

December hog futures finished up nearly one per cent after brushing off lower wholesale pork prices. Hog weights at a record high for a third straight week added more pork to the retail sector.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wednesday morning wholesale pork price fell $1.70 from Tuesday to $89.26 per hundredweight (cwt).

Average hog weights for the week ended Nov. 16 in the closely followed Iowa/Minnesota market reached a record at 281.2 lbs., surpassing the prior week’s record of 280.8 lbs., according to USDA data.

Concerns regarding the impact of the porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDv), a fatal baby pig disease, on hog production pushed up deferred contracts, traders and analysts said.

Live cattle finish higher

CME live cattle futures gained modestly on short covering following recent market losses, traders said.

They said uncertainty about this week’s cash prices and wholesale beef demand limited gains.

There were no cash cattle bids reported on Wednesday versus asking prices in Texas and Kansas from $132 to $134/cwt, feedlot sources said. Last week, cash-basis cattle traded at $132/cwt.

“I would have called cash prices steady for this week. But based on the (futures) trading action of the last two days I think they may be $1 lower,” Oak Investment Group president Joe Ocrant said.

This week’s cash cattle price direction remains elusive to market investors due to tepid wholesale beef demand and still-poor packer margins.

“The (futures) market is anticipating cash weakness. We will be lucky to see steady money,” said Domenic Varricchio, commodities broker at Schwieterman Inc.

USDA reported on Wednesday morning the choice beef wholesale price, or cutout, at $199.55/cwt, up 53 cents from Tuesday. Select cuts slid 56 cents to $187.34.

Wednesday’s mixed cutout could mean ham and turkey buying by supermarkets is done for the week and grocers may start buying beef for post-Thanksgiving features, a trader said.

Live cattle December finished up 0.1 cent/lb. at 131.05 cents, and February closed at 131.95 cents, or 0.275 cent higher.

CME feeder cattle drew support from higher live cattle futures and weak Chicago Board of Trade corn prices.

November feeder cattle, which will expire on Nov. 22, closed up 0.2 cent at 164.575 cents/lb. January ended at 162.75 cents, 0.35 cent higher.

— Meredith Davis reports on U.S. ag commodities for Reuters from Chicago.

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