U.S. livestock: Lower cash prices drop CME live cattle futures

Chicago Mercantile Exchange live cattle on Friday settled lower as weaker-than-expected cash prices and sluggish wholesale beef demand weighed, traders said.

Cash cattle in Texas and Kansas traded at $131 per hundredweight (cwt), down $1 from a week ago, according to feedlot sources (all figures US$).

Friday afternoon’s wholesale choice beef price slumped $1.56 from Thursday to $198.89/cwt, while select rose 39 cents to $187.01, based on U.S. Department of Agriculture data.

“I thought we’d see a steady cash trade but changed my mind because of what beef is doing. All of a sudden it seems they (packers) can’t seem to give it (beef) away,” said Oak Investment Group president Joe Ocrant said.

East Coast grocers may be leery about having a huge amount of expensive beef on hand if consumers are unable to venture out amid another round of inclement weather in the area, he said.

The inability of packers to move fresh beef has eroded their margins, which could prompt them to cutback slaughter rates.

Beef packer margins for Friday were at a negative $54.40 per head, compared with a negative $42.10 on Thursday and negative $39 a week ago, according to HedgersEdge.com.

Late-session short-covering and speculative buying lifted futures from session lows.

December live cattle finished 0.375 cent per pound lower at 131.875 cents. February ended at 132.85 cents, down 0.25 cent.

CME feeder cattle ended steady, pressured by weak live cattle futures, while lower Chicago Board of Trader corn prices offered support.

CBOT corn for March delivery ended down 8-3/4 cents at $4.25-1/2 a bushel, partly on jitters that China may reduce purchases.

Less-costly feed could mean reduced input costs for feedlots, encouraging them to buy young cattle.

Feeder cattle January and March contracts closed unchanged at 167.075 cents and 166.55 cents, respectively.

Hog futures bow to cash

Hog futures at the CME lost ground in response to lower cash hog and wholesale pork prices, traders and analysts said.

December hogs expired from trading on Friday at noon CST. It settled down 0.075 cent/lb. at 81.25 cents/lb. and nearly in line with CME’s hog index at 81.15 cents.

February, the new lead month, closed at 87.175 cents, 0.825 cent lower, and April ended 0.45 cent lower at 91.5 cents.

“Cash prices are being dragged down by the cutout and heavy hogs. And February looked awfully pricey compared to the index after December expired,” a trader said.

USDA data on Friday afternoon quoted the average price of hogs in the closely watched Iowa/Minnesota market at $76.25/cwt, $2.07 lower than Thursday.

Friday morning’s wholesale pork price, or cutout, dropped $1.59/cwt to $86.54, as the cost for hams shed $5.06, USDA said.

The price of ham at wholesale tends to decline this time of year as end users get closer to buying all they need for the holiday season.

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

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