U.S. livestock: CME live cattle close mixed ahead of holiday

Chicago | Reuters –– Chicago Mercantile Exchange live cattle futures ended mixed on Thursday after investors settled their accounts during the last trading session of the year.

The thinly-traded spot December, which expired at noon CT, settled 2.8 cents/lb. higher at 135.8 (all figures US$).

February, the new lead month, closed up 0.1 cent/lb. at 136.8 cents, and April ended down 0.075 cent at 137.975.

The week’s cash and wholesale beef price surge at times encouraged futures buyers. But uncertainty over whether further advances are warranted in the coming year weighed on contracts.

Beef demand tends to struggle through the end of January as consumers pay off year-end holiday debt, said EBOTTrading.com senior analyst John Kleist, adding that shoppers will continue to eye less-costly plentiful pork and poultry into early spring.

This week, market-ready, or cash, cattle in the U.S. Plains moved at $133-$135/cwt, $11-$13 above last week, feedlot sources said.

They said recent wintry weather disruptions, and packers buying for the first full week of production after the winter holidays, drove up beef and cattle prices.

Thursday morning’s wholesale choice beef price rose $2.05/cwt from Wednesday, to $210.83. Select cuts gained $1.62, to $203.13, based on U.S. Department of Agriculture data.

Buy stops and follow-through buying pushed CME feeder cattle contracts higher. January closed 0.95 cent/lb. higher at 166.9.

Mostly weak hog futures

Most CME lean hog contracts ended down slightly on year-end positioning and conflicting market fundamentals, traders said.

Spot February finished up 0.025 cent/lb. at 59.8 cents, April slipped 0.075 cent to 65.95 and May dropped 0.275 cent to 73.65.

Thursday morning’s average cash hog price in Iowa/Minnesota at $48.88/cwt, fell 98 cents from Wednesday.

The morning’s wholesale pork price was up $1.07/cwt to $68.85 from Wednesday, helped by the nearly $7 cost hike for pork bellies, the USDA said.

Most processors have full inventories into early next week, while supermarkets bought product sparingly until they figure out how much of it sold over the New Year’s holiday, traders and analysts said.

Theopolis Waters reports on livestock markets for Reuters from Chicago.

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