U.S. livestock: Live cattle, feeders mixed on beef declines

Chicago | Reuters — U.S. live cattle and feeder cattle futures were flat to narrowly mixed on Monday as lower wholesale beef prices suggested demand for the meat was slowing, traders said.

Lean hogs were slightly lower in light trading at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. Losses in outside markets kept a lid on gains in livestock, with crude oil falling to a one-month low and stock indexes also under pressure.

Cattle prices can follow trends in outside markets, as reduced returns for investors can influence consumer sentiment and cause some to cut back on goods such as pricy cuts of beef.

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“The weakness in crude is bringing in some nervousness. Boxed beef prices have been on quite the downtrend, and that’s not going to get us overly excited,” Top Third Ag Marketing livestock analyst Craig VanDyke said.

Front-month April live cattle settled 0.225 cent higher at 133.2 cents/lb. and more-active June futures up 0.1 cent at 123.675 (all figures US$). The contracts remained above their 1-1/2-month lows reached last week.

Most-active May feeders were unchanged at 154.7 cents, underpinning by corn prices that were hovering near the lowest levels in roughly 9-1/2 months.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture pegged the wholesale beef choice cutout at $217.51, down $1.60 and lowest in more than a month.

Cattle traders were waiting to see whether cattle would fetch prices higher or lower than trades of mostly $133/cwt seen last week in the southern U.S. Plains.

Front-month April lean hogs lost ground for the fourth straight session even as the contract remained above Friday’s 10-week lows of 67.25, settling down 0.125 cent at 67.675. Most-active June hogs were down 0.65 cent at 78.725, lowest since Feb. 19.

USDA after the close of trading said wholesale pork prices were up 28 cents at $76.53/cwt, with gains in picnic, or shoulder, cuts offsetting steep losses in pork bellies.

VanDyke pointed to declining open interest in lean hog futures as a signal that some investors were turning bearish, after prices for summer-delivery hogs last month reached contract highs.

Michael Hirtzer reports on agriculture and ag commodity markets for Reuters from Chicago.

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