U.S. livestock: Live cattle set nine-year low on weak cash prices, big supply

CME October 2019 live cattle with 20-, 50- and 100-day moving averages. (Barchart)

Chicago | Reuters — Front-month live cattle futures fell to a nine-year low on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange on Monday under pressure from weak cash prices and large supplies.

Cash cattle are expected to trade around $98/cwt this week in Texas and Kansas, down from $100 last week and $103 two weeks ago, according to traders (all figures US$).

Cattle futures and cash prices tumbled after a fire at a Tyson Foods slaughterhouse at Holcomb, Kansas last month removed a key buyer from the market.

“The packers are pretty much in control of the cash market and they just continue to dial it down,” said Dennis Smith, commodity broker for Archer Financial Services in Chicago.

Tyson and other meat companies have been processing more cattle at other plants, reducing the impact of the fire on total U.S. slaughtering. The packers killed an estimated 115,000 cattle on Monday, compared with 119,000 a year ago.

There is still a negative tone in the cash market because of large supplies, traders said.

“No one has any optimism regarding cash,” one Chicago-based trader said.

CME October live cattle futures ended down 0.675 cent at 94.2 cents/lb. and set a contract low. The contract also hit its cheapest price on a continuous chart of front-month cattle futures since 2010.

Monday was the first day of the five-session roll for funds tracking Standard + Poor’s Goldman Sachs Commodity Index, according to traders. They were selling the October live cattle contract and buying the December contract as part of the so-called Goldman roll, traders said.

CME October feeder cattle ended down 1.075 cents at 129.825 cents/lb.

Hog futures were also weaker, with CME October lean hogs settling down 0.9 cent at 62.6 cents/lb. December hogs fell 2.525 cents to 59.95 cents.

Some traders have been expecting China, the world’s top hog producer, to import more pork as it struggles with a meat shortage due to the spread of African swine fever, a fatal pig disease.

But the escalating U.S. trade war with China has impeded sales of U.S. pork, weighing on hog prices.

“They’re so dependent on China talk and it’s just not happening,” a hog trader said.

Chinese officials at the vice-minister level will travel to Washington in mid-September for trade talks.

But White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow cautioned on Friday that the trade conflict could take years to resolve.

— Tom Polansek reports on agriculture and agribusiness for Reuters from Chicago.

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