U.S. livestock: CME live cattle finish mostly weak

(Photo courtesy Canada Beef Inc.)

Chicago | Reuters — Most Chicago Mercantile Exchange live cattle contracts closed weak on Thursday, after investors sold deferred months and bought February in anticipation of at least steady cash prices by Friday, traders said.

Packers in Kansas and Texas on Thursday bid $138/cwt for market-ready, or cash, cattle, which matched last week’s sales, said feedlot sources (all figures US$). They said cattle owners are holding out for at least $140.

Some processors are hesitant to spend more for supplies while coping with unprofitable margins, said traders and analysts.

Thursday’s average beef packer margin was a negative $19.60 per head, down from a negative $15.05 for Wednesday and a negative $4.05 a week ago, as calculated by HedgersEdge.com.

But some cash prices may find support after Tuesday’s potent winter storm shut down some plants that reduced the flow of product to retailers, which forced them to pay more for beef.

The morning’s wholesale choice beef price climbed 86 cents/cwt from Wednesday, to $223.43. Select cuts rose 78 cents, to $218.80, said the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

CME live cattle futures fluctuated throughout the morning, stirred by their supportive discounts to last week’s cash prices while at times pressured by periodic U.S. stock market losses.

February live cattle closed up 0.225 cent/lb. to 137.075 cents, April ended down 0.1 cent, to 135.65 cents, and June finished 0.275 cent lower at 124.8 cents.

Weak cash feeder cattle prices and soft back-month live cattle futures sent CME feeder cattle contracts lower. March feeders closed down 1.425 cents/lb. to 156.525.

Hog futures end higher

A few packers short on supplies following weather-related disruptions in the western corn belt encouraged CME lean hog futures buyers, traders said.

The government estimated Thursday’s slaughter at 401,000 head, down from 435,000 last week.

Analysts and dealers forecast Saturday’s kill around 200,000 head, which will include plants making up downtime due to Tuesday’s blizzard.

The morning’s cash prices in the Midwest held steady, according to regional hog dealers.

Investors are monitoring recent wholesale pork price weakness that suggests some retailers may have bought enough product prior to the storm.

The morning wholesale pork price on Thursday fell 82 cents/cwt from Wednesday to $76.41, mainly pressured by $3.45 lower rib values, USDA said.

Spot February and April ended 0.575 cent/lb. higher at 65.125 and 70.25 cents, respectively.

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

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