U.S. livestock: Live cattle futures end higher on cash gains

Chicago Mercantile Exchange live cattle futures rose on Wednesday supported by higher cash cattle trades this week, analysts and traders said.

Beef packers this week in Kansas paid $132 per hundredweight (cwt), up $1 from last week’s trade (all figures US$). Some analysts and traders had expected steady trade with last week.

“This market has seen a pretty impressive rally given it is turkey and ham season,” said Lane Broadbent, an analyst with KIS Futures.

The record-low U.S. cattle herd continues to boost cash prices.

Cattle bought this week will be for post-Thanksgiving beef production, which was supportive to cash prices as some analysts expect beef demand to improve after the holiday.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wednesday morning wholesale beef price, or boxed beef, was higher at $202.75/cwt for choice cuts, up $1.33 from Tuesday. Select cuts were up $1.26 at $190.34/cwt.

“The higher boxed beef helped the cash cattle market. There are some expectations that packers are going to need cattle to meet beef demand before the first of the year,” Broadbent said.

Beef processing margins have been squeezed as packers have paid up for cattle in the cash market. Margins were at a negative $27.65 per head, compared with a negative $31.70 on Tuesday and a negative $60.70, according to HedgersEdge.com.

December cattle futures settled up 1.15 cents at 133.1 cents/lb. February cattle settled at 134.1, up 1.075 cents.

CME feeder cattle followed live cattle higher. January feeder cattle ended 0.95 cent/lb. higher at 165.325 cents, while March ended up 0.85 cent at 165.15.

CME hogs supported by firm cash

Firm cash hog prices helped CME hog futures settle higher in light trading, traders said.

Hogs in the U.S. Midwest traded steady to $1 higher as packers built up supplies for a large weekend kill, hog brokers said.

Packers traditionally plan a large slaughter the weekend following Thanksgiving day as most plants stop production for the holiday.

Cash hog prices, as reported by USDA in the closely watched Iowa/Minnesota direct market, were not available early on Wednesday, but prices in the eastern Midwest direct market rose 88 cents to $77.39/cwt.

USDA reported early on Wednesday record-high hog weights in the Iowa/southern Minnesota market for the fourth straight week. The average weight for the week ended Saturday was 281.4 lbs., up from 281.2 lbs. in the previous week and up seven pounds from a year earlier.

Deferred month hog contracts were supported by concerns regarding the spread of the porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDv), a fatal piglet disease. The disease could reduce hog supplies in 2014.

December hog futures closed up 0.175 cent at 85.8 cents/lb. February hogs closed up 0.075 cent at 90.475 cents.

CME livestock futures trading will be closed Thursday for the Thanksgiving Day holiday, and will trade in truncated sessions Friday, closing at 12:15 p.m. CST.

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

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