U.S. livestock: Hogs hit one-year high as pork prices extend gains

(Regis Lefebure photo courtesy ARS/USDA)

Chicago | Reuters — U.S. lean hog futures were mostly higher on Wednesday, with the front-month contract rising to the highest levels in a year on support from rising prices for wholesale pork, traders and analysts said.

Chicago Mercantile Exchange July lean hogs notched life-of-contract highs for the third straight session as investors continued to exit nearby positions and roll into deferred months.

July hogs finished 1.075 cents higher at 86.075 cents/lb., rising to a session and contract high of 86.4 cents shortly after the U.S. Department of Agriculture at late morning showed sharply higher wholesale pork prices (all figures US$). Most-active August hog futures settled up 0.575 cent at 82.225 cents

USDA said pork prices were up $2.24, to $101.09/cwt, the highest since October 2014. Pork bellies surged $5.22, to $185.83/cwt, the highest since April 2014. Cash hog prices edged lower in Iowa and southern Minnesota, USDA said.

“Extremely strong pork demand remains the big hog market story and demand is generally more difficult to gauge than supply, which makes it a bit harder to project where and when prices will top out,” brokerage Brock and Associates said in a note to clients.

Live cattle lower, feeders higher

CME August live cattle eased 0.55 cent to 115.35 cents/lb., holding above Tuesday’s nearly two-month low of 113.65 cents. August feeder cattle futures were up 0.725 cents at 144.05 cents per pound.

Cattle prices had bounced from Tuesday’s lows, and some analysts thought the market had reached a short-term bottom following more than a week of declines. However, cash cattle prices continued to weaken, weighing on futures.

Feedlots in Texas sold cattle on Thursday at about $122/cwt and in Kansas at $123, sales that were down $8-$9 from a week ago.

“I wonder if this is a dead-cat bounce,” Zaner Ag Hedge senior market strategist Ted Seifried said, adding that the poor recovery could spell lower cattle prices ahead.

Analysts predicted that USDA in a monthly Cattle on Feed report on Friday would show 2.085 million cattle placed on feed in May, up 10.4 percent from the same time in 2016. More cattle placed in feedlots increase the number of fattened animals available for beef packers later in the year.

A few analysts expected the USDA in a monthly Cold Storage report on Thursday to show total beef stocks in May at 438.6 million lbs., and 572 million lbs. for pork.

— Michael Hirtzer reports on commodity markets for Reuters from Chicago.

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