U.S. livestock: Cattle, hogs narrowly mixed on quarter-end positioning

(Photo courtesy Canada Beef Inc.)

Chicago/Reuters – U.S. livestock futures were narrowly mixed on Friday, with live cattle edging slightly higher in a rebound from an earlier 10-day low as investors squared up their positions on the final day of the quarter, traders and analysts said.

Most-active Chicago Mercantile Exchange June live cattle settled unchanged at 110.875 cents per lb, underpinned by expectations that demand for cattle will remain robust in the coming weeks. Cattle on a continuous chart gained about 0.8 per cent for the quarter.

Prices earlier came under pressure from declines in wholesale beef and lower trades in Plains cash cattle markets.

“This market is undervalued,” Top Third Ag Marketing broker Craig VanDyke said of live cattle. “We’re seeing some weakness in the (beef) product but I don’t think that’s a surprise given the run-up in the slaughter.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said wholesale beef prices fell $1.09 to $214.12 per cwt, lowest in about three weeks.

Beef prices have declined from the multimonth peaks of $224.93 on March 22 as packers boosted slaughter rates this month to capitalize on big profit margins.

CME May feeder cattle futures finished 1.275 cents higher at 132.700 cents per lb, above their session lows of 130.125. For the quarter, feeder cattle climbed 2.7 per cent.

Hog futures down

CME June lean hog futures were down 0.650 cent to 69.850 cents per lb.

Hogs finished the quarter about flat. Hogs on Thursday fell to a three-month low ahead of a USDA quarterly pigs report that showed the U.S. herd four per cent larger than a year ago, at 70.976 million head.

“Hogs are performing fairly well… this might be a victory,” VanDyke said, pointing to the bearish USDA hogs supply data.

Still, hogs continued to decline in U.S. cash markets.

Prices fell 24 cents to an average of $61.49 per cwt in the top market of Iowa and southern Minnesota, USDA data showed. Wholesale pork edged 22 cents higher to $75.40 per cwt, led by steep increases in prices for pork butt and picnic cuts.

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