U.S. livestock: Hogs slump in reversal on pork price declines

(Regis Lefebure photo courtesy ARS/USDA)

Chicago | Reuters — U.S. lean hog futures declined by as much as 3.8 per cent on Tuesday, reversing from earlier three-week highs on fund selling linked to declines in wholesale pork prices, traders said.

Chicago Mercantile Exchange cattle futures also eased but saw smaller declines than hog prices as some investors unwound long hog and short cattle spreads.

Most-active CME October lean hogs finished 2.65 cents lower at 59.85 cents/lb., notching their largest daily losses so far this month and easing from an earlier high of 63.25 cents.

U.S. Department of Agriculture data released at midday showed a steep drop in pork bellies as seasonal demand for BLT sandwiches waned. After the close of futures trading, USDA said pork bellies eased $14.86, to $80.43/cwt. The pork cutout, an index of several meat cuts including bellies, was off $2.51, to $73.96/cwt, the lowest since January.

“It’s getting late in the season and there’s too much freezer stock,” Linn Group analyst John Ginzel said, adding that packers were likely discounting pork bellies to entice retailer demand.

Record production this year of U.S. hogs and pork also limited potential gains in CME hog futures, with many contracts still trading near lifetime lows hit on Aug. 4. Open interest in hog futures fell sharply during Monday’s session of higher prices, suggesting investors were exiting bearish bets and not making bullish new ones, CME Group data showed on Tuesday.

CME October live cattle was 0.575 cents lower at 113.4 cents/lb., settling well off their earlier lows. CME September feeder cattle futures were down 1.5 cents at 145.575 cents/lb., their lowest settlement since Aug. 4.

Some cattle traders were evening up positions ahead of USDA’s monthly Cattle on Feed report. Analysts polled by Reuters expect the report, due out Friday, to show cattle placed on feed during July was slightly above the same month in 2015.

The move lower in cattle confounded some bullish traders, who pointed to recent gains in wholesale beef prices as supportive to futures.

USDA said the choice beef cutout was up 17 cents, to $201.84/cwt, highest in nearly a month.

“None of the weakness makes any sense but that has been the way of the market all year,” analyst David Hales said in his Hales Cattle Letter. He added that investors likely were betting on lower cattle prices in U.S. Plains cash markets.

— Michael Hirtzer reports on ag commodity markets for Reuters from Chicago.

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