U.S. livestock: Consolidation lifts CME live cattle ahead of USDA report

Chicago | Reuters –– Chicago Mercantile Exchange live cattle futures on Thursday closed higher, after consolidation and short-covering ahead of Friday’s U.S. government cattle report helped the market recoup some recent losses, traders said.

Analysts, on average, expect the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) monthly Cattle on Feed report at 11 a.m. CT to show 5.7 per cent more cattle were placed in feedlots last month than a year ago.

This was a back-and-fill type of session, with the market backing up a bit from the recent downtrend, said Archer Financial Services broker Dennis Smith.

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Technical buying and this week’s generally steady prices for slaughter-ready, or cash, cattle contributed to futures advances.

December live cattle closed up 0.225 cent/lb. to 119.625 cents (all figures US$). February ended 0.725 cent higher at 119.675 cents, and above the 100-day moving average of 119.35 cents.

This week cash cattle in the U.S. Plains traded from $119 to $120/cwt versus $118-$120 a week earlier, according to feedlot sources.

Fewer cattle for sale than last week and tight supplies in parts of the region helped underpin cash returns, traders and analysts said.

They said seasonally slow wholesale beef demand, and packing plants set to close at least one day during the Christmas holiday, capped cash advances.

On Friday at 11 a.m. CT, USDA will issue the monthly cold storage report that will include November total beef and pork inventories.

A survey of analysts, on average, projected last month’s total beef stocks at 512.9 million pounds and 550 million for pork.

Short-covering, technical buying and live cattle futures turnaround pulled up CME feeder cattle.

January feeder cattle closed 1.15 cents/lb. higher at 142.925 cents.

Modest hog futures gains

CME lean hogs gained slightly on short-covering and technical buying, despite lower cash prices, traders said.

Some market participants tweaked positions before Friday morning’s USDA quarterly hog report, which analysts believe will show more herd growth.

February hogs settled up 0.2 cent/lb. to 68.575 cents, and April closed up 0.125 cent higher at 73.075 cents.

Packers need fewer hogs with plants scheduled to shut down over the Christmas holiday, said analysts and traders. Grocers bought pork on an as-needed basis until they figure out how much product sold over the holiday, they said.

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

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