U.S. livestock: Weak cash prices extend live cattle losses

(Photo courtesy Canada Beef Inc.)

Chicago | Reuters — Chicago Mercantile Exchange live cattle futures finished lower for a fourth straight session on Wednesday as they marked new lows, hit by softer initial cash prices, traders said.

October closed 0.75 cent per pound lower at 96.75 cents, and made a new low of 95.675 cents (all figures US$). December finished 1.1 cents lower at 98 cents, with a new low of 97.325 cents.

On Wednesday morning, a packer in Kansas paid $98/cwt for a small number of slaughter-ready, or cash, cattle that last week brought mostly $102, said feedlot sources. They said other cattle in Kansas and Texas were bid $98 versus $102 asking prices.

“The biggest issue is the lack of competition between packers, with the trade driven by a small amount of cash sales,” said Top Third Ag Marketing analyst Craig VanDyke.

Processors are maintaining current slaughter rates to capitalize on their margins rather than ramping up already active kills, traders and analysts said.

They said sluggish wholesale beef demand, partly due to the impact of Hurricane Matthew on sales in the southeastern U.S., deterred packers from paying more for cattle.

Wednesday morning’s choice beef price had fallen $1.38/cwt from Tuesday to $181.80. Select cuts slipped three cents to $172.72, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said.

From Monday to Wednesday packers processed 344,000 head of cattle, 7,000 more than last week, according to USDA estimates.

CME live cattle futures’ selloff toppled the exchange’s feeder cattle contracts. October feeder cattle closed down 2.125 cents per pound at 122 cents.

Higher hog futures

Wednesday morning’s wholesale pork price rebound, almost midway through October National Pork Month, and short covering boosted CME lean hog futures, said traders.

USDA data on Wednesday afternoon showed the wholesale pork price rose $1.55/cwt from Tuesday to $73.72.

Bullish traders were encouraged by news that Smithfield Foods will attempt to restart operations at its Tar Heel, N.C., plant, closed since Saturday due to Hurricane Matthew.

The U.S. government estimated Wednesday’s hog slaughter at 396,000 head — 40,000 fewer than a week ago.

Traders said technical buying and futures’ discounts to the exchange’s hog index for Oct. 10 at 52.82 cents furthered market advances.

CME October lean hogs, which will expire on Friday, closed 0.925 cent/lb. higher at 52.375 cents, and above the 20-day moving average of 52.12 cents. Most actively traded December finished 1.275 cents higher at 44.05 cents.

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

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