U.S. livestock: Profit-taking weakens CME live cattle

Chicago Mercantile Exchange live cattle futures posted modest losses on Tuesday as investors pocketed profits before the Christmas holiday, traders said.

December live cattle futures finished 0.35 cent per pound lower at 132.35 cents, and February ended down 0.225 cent at 133.725 cents (all figures US$).

December felt added pressure this week from market anxiety about cash cattle prices.

Last week, cash cattle in the U.S. Plains moved at mostly $130 per hundredweight (cwt), feedlot sources said.

Meatpacking plants will be dark during two holiday-shortened workweeks, making processors reluctant to spend more for supplies.

Deteriorating packer margins and lukewarm wholesale beef demand, prior to Tuesday’s cutout upturn, could lean on cash cattle values.

“They (packers) can’t move this product. We’re continuing to struggle and packer margins are just one reflection of that,” CHS Hedging analyst Steve Wagner said.

Tuesday morning’s wholesale choice beef price, or cutout, gained 34 cents/cwt to $197.03, and select climbed $1.90 to $192.42, based on U.S. Department of Agriculture data.

Beef packer margins for Tuesday were at a negative $77.25 per head, compared with a negative $55.15 per head on Monday and a negative $41.00 per head a week ago.

Investors planning extended year-end holiday vacations sold December futures and bought deferred contracts in advance of the last trading day of the quarter next week.

The Cargill beef packing plant near Dodge City, Kansas, is expected to be closed until next week as damage is assessed from a minor fire that broke out Monday evening, a company official told Reuters.

Live cattle market weakness and profit-taking after recent gains pulled down CME feeder cattle.

Feeder cattle for January closed at 166.25 cents, 0.425 cent lower, and March finished down 0.45 cent at 166.65 cents.

Mixed hog futures before holiday

CME hogs closed mixed on position-evening before Wednesday’s holiday, traders and analysts said.

Investors await the government’s quarterly hog and pig report on Friday.

February hogs closed down 0.325 cent/lb. at 85.875 cents, and April ended at 91.05 cents, up 0.1 cent.

The lack of USDA cash hog prices on Tuesday morning put February futures buyers on the defensive, triggering sell stops.

“With cash as low as it is, there is no incentive to buy the February contract,” said Wagner.

Traders continued to monitor wholesale pork demand with end users possibly gearing up to feature product after the New Year’s holiday.

The government’s morning wholesale pork price rose 66 cents/cwt to $85.86, helped by higher loin and rib costs.

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

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