U.S. livestock: Hog futures move higher with cash, pork prices

Chicago Mercantile Exchange hog futures settled higher on Friday, helped by strong prices for slaughter-ready hogs and firmer wholesale pork values, traders said.

On Friday morning, the price of hogs in the most-watched Iowa/Minnesota market climbed $1.60 per hundredweight (cwt) from Thursday to $83.74, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (all figures US$).

Separate USDA data showed the morning’s wholesale pork price, or cutout, at $94.27/cwt, up 21 cents from Thursday.

Processors hiked cash hog bids and grocers spent more for fresh pork despite sufficient supplies at higher weights. Packers this week are on pace to slaughter an estimated 2.29 million hogs, up 18,000 from last week, USDA said.

Funds that follow the Standard + Poor’s Goldman Sachs commodity index (S+PGSCI) limited the December contract’s gains. Those funds at times sold, or “rolled,” their CME hog and live cattle December long positions and bought February and April. Friday was the second of five days for the procedure.

Chicago Board of Trade corn gained modestly following USDA’s crop report that pegged 2013 U.S. corn production at a record 13.989 billion bushels. The outcome was slightly below an average of analysts’ estimates and above the USDA forecast in September.

While some speculative hog buyers waded into deep-deferred futures with the view that corn price upturn would trim hog production, others were unimpressed by USDA’s data.

“There is still going to be plenty of corn around to feed livestock, so I don’t see the report being that big of a deal,” a trader said.

December hogs ended up 0.575 cent at 88.125 cents, while February hogs closed 0.675 cent higher at 92.075 cents.

Cattle up on fund buying

Fund buying and expectations that prices for slaughter-ready cattle could bounce back in the coming weeks rallied CME live cattle, traders and analysts said.

Early-session short-covering pushed December and February futures beyond their respective 40-day moving averages of 131.92 cents and 133.55 cents, which encouraged fund buyers.

Some investors are hopeful that tighter cattle numbers in the weeks and months ahead will force packers to pay more for supplies. That, despite this week’s sales of $131, down $1 from last week.

More cattle were up for sale after packers bought fewer of them in recent weeks. Processors avoided spending more for cattle to recover lost margins and as wholesale beef demand wavered.

Friday morning’s wholesale choice beef price was $203.10/cwt, 89 cents lower than the day. Select cuts were at $189.86, down 31 cents, based on USDA data.

“We’re in that two to three weeks in front of Thanksgiving and we’re inevitably going to have that round of bird (turkey) featuring,” agricultural lender Rabobank cattle economist Don Close said.

Live cattle December finished 0.725 cent per pound higher at 132.4 cents, and February closed at 133.95 cents, up 0.4 cent.

Profit taking and firmer CBOT corn futures pared earlier CME feeder cattle gains. Increased feed costs can discourage feedlots from buying young cattle.

November closed down 0.2 cent/lb. at 164.425 cents, and January ended at 164.425 cents, 0.7 cent lower.

— Theopolis Waters reports on livestock futures markets for Reuters from Chicago.

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