U.S. livestock: CME live cattle tumble with cash prices

(Photo courtesy Canada Beef Inc.)

Chicago | Reuters –– Chicago Mercantile Exchange live cattle futures fell hard on Thursday, led by more disappointing prices for market-ready, or cash, cattle, traders said.

February live cattle closed 2.35 cents/lb. lower at 130.125 cents, and April ended down 2.275 cents, at 129.525 cents (all figures US$).

Cash cattle on Thursday morning in the U.S. Plains brought $128-$134/cwt, down from mostly $134-$136 last week, said feedlot sources.

Earlier this week packers in Texas and Kansas bought cash cattle at $134, off $2 from last week’s high.

Cash prices suffered after processors trimmed slaughters while trying to recover lost profits and stimulate seasonally tepid wholesale beef demand.

Thursday’s average beef packer margin was a negative $36.75 per head, up from a negative $41.15 for Wednesday, as calculated by HedgersEdge.com.

The morning’s wholesale choice beef price dropped 99 cents/cwt from Wednesday, to $217.20. Select cuts were $1.13 higher, at $214.75, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said.

Some packers also priced supplies based on CME live cattle futures that were heavily pressured by the U.S. stock market slump amid heightened global economic fears.

“With the stock market being so shaky, cattle traders are nervous about higher-priced beef moving in an environment in which consumers might be nervous,” said independent livestock futures trader Dan Norcini.

Live cattle market liquidation sent CME feeder contracts lower. March feeders were 0.975 cent/lb. lower at 150.25.

Hog futures close higher

CME lean hogs drew strength from traders that simultaneously bought those contracts and sold live cattle futures, traders said.

Hog fundamentals are more supportive than cattle given cheaper pork than beef compared with historical norms, said Norcini.

The morning’s wholesale pork price fell $1.51/cwt from Wednesday, to $75.54, after the more than $4 drop in ham costs, the USDA said.

Lean hog futures received an added boost from steady cash prices, because of tight seasonal supplies, and fund buying after contracts surpassed key technical trading levels.

The average cash hog price in Iowa/Minnesota on Thursday morning was up three cents/cwt from Wednesday to $62.90, the USDA said.

Spot February, which will expire on Friday, ended up 0.375 cent/lb. to 65.525.

April closed 1.1 cents higher at 69.45 cents and above the 20-day moving average of 69.22 cents. May finished 0.975 cent higher at 75.65 cents after topping the 200-day moving average of 74.94 cents.

Theopolis Waters reports on livestock markets for Reuters from Chicago.

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