U.S. hog futures fall as supplies rise

Chicago Mercantile Exchange hog futures dropped sharply on Wednesday in reaction to a seasonal bump in supplies that could pressure cash hog and wholesale pork values.

Armed with profitable margins and ample supplies, packers plan to process roughly 140,000 hogs on Saturday, analysts and hog buyers said.

Wednesday’s hog prices in direct and terminal markets were mostly steady to $1 per hundredweight (cwt) lower, traders said (all figures US$).

Estimated margins for U.S. pork packers on Wednesday were a positive $14.25 per head, compared with a positive $13.95 on Tuesday and a positive $17.05 last week, according to HedgersEdge.com.

Investors also sold hog futures amid concerns about how spot October hogs will settle on Oct. 14 without U.S. Department of Agriculture cash hog price data. The data has been suspended during the partial U.S. government shutdown.

The CME Group recently outlined how it will determine the final settlement price for the October 2013 lean hog contract if the U.S. government closure persists.

“I don’t want to be in that spot month not knowing what cash is doing,” a trader said.

Funds liquidated long positions in the December contract after it fell below where the 10-day and 20-day moving averages converged at 87.32 cents.

Spot October hog futures finished at 89.825 cents per pound, down 1.4 cents. Most-actively traded December closed 1.675 cents lower at 86.525 cents.

Cattle down with beef

CME live cattle futures were hit by profit taking in response to weaker wholesale beef prices, traders said.

Wednesday’s wholesale choice beef price, or cutout, dropped 50 cents/cwt from Tuesday to $191.97. The select price was $177.92, down 62 cents, as quoted by Urner Barry.

Despite inconsistent beef demand and poor margins, traders expect packers to pay at least steady money for cattle that are in short supply this week.

Cash cattle bids in Texas and Kansas surfaced at $124/cwt versus spotty asking prices of $128 and higher, feedlots sources said. Cash-basis cattle last week traded at $125 to $126.

HedgersEdge.com estimated margins for U.S. beef packers on Wednesday at a negative $37.40 per head, compared with a negative $41.95 on Tuesday and a negative $40.90 last week.

The threat of more live cattle deliveries against CME October live cattle futures, which will expire on Oct. 31, weighed on that contract. So far, 26 contracts have been delivered.

The belief that futures’ are overpriced given last week’s cash cattle returns, pressured several contracts.

South Korea has suspended some U.S. beef imports after detecting the feed additive zilpaterol in meat supplied by a unit of JBS USA.

The South Korean situation is going to prove to be a localized issue, said Citigroup futures specialist Sterling Smith.

“The loss of 60,000 cattle in South Dakota due to a recent blizzard is probably a bigger concern because it creates a market imbalance,” he said.

Disaster aid will be slow to come for South Dakota ranchers who lost as many as 60,000 head of cattle during an historic blizzard over the weekend, industry officials said on Tuesday.

October cattle closed down 0.275 cent/lb. at 128 cents while December finished at 131.95 cents, down 0.375 cent.

Weak CME live cattle pressured October feeder cattle futures, while tight supplies underpinned the November feeder contract.

October feeder cattle ended down 0.250 cent/lb. at 164.55 cents. November settled at 166.375 cents, up 0.05 cent.

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

Related story:
Record blizzard kills South Dakota cattle, Oct. 8, 2013

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