U.S. feeder cattle off as corn soars on USDA report

U.S. feeder cattle futures declined nearly two per cent on Thursday, and some months sank by their three-cent daily trading limit, as corn prices surged more than five per cent after a U.S. Department of Agriculture report.

The USDA estimated smaller-than-expected corn production that will likely put more pressure on feed costs for livestock producers, said traders and analysts.

Spot October feeder cattle closed 1.975 cents lower, or 1.36 per cent, at 142.750 cents. Most-actively traded November closed at 143.8 cents, 2.9 cents lower or 1.98 per cent.

Funds actively liquidated positions in the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) November feeder cattle contract after it slipped below the 10-day moving average of 145.88 cents.

Feeders weigh on live cattle

CME feeder cattle fallout seeped into the live cattle sector, overshadowing early signs of higher prices for cattle in the cash market.

Spot October closed down 0.325 cent per pound, or 0.26 per cent, to 124.6 cents.

December ended at 125.925 cents, 0.65 cent lower or 0.51 per cent. It could not hold above technical levels captured earlier in the session.

"With the corn rallying like this and feeders getting trashed it’s hard to sustain a rally anywhere," said Pete Adams, a principal with PNM Trading.

A light number of cattle in Kansas moved at $125 per hundredweight (cwt), $1 higher than last week, a feedlot manager said.

He said sellers were holding out for more money given tight supplies, recent futures’ gains and Thursday’s wholesale beef price rebound.

On Thursday morning, USDA estimated the wholesale choice beef price at $191.46/cwt, up 48 cents from Wednesday. Select cuts rose 96 cents to $177.88.

"Packers wouldn’t have throttled up their kills or hiked bids for cattle if they didn’t need them," said the feedlot manager.

From Monday to Thursday, packers processed 502,000 head of cattle, 10,000 more than a week earlier but down by the same number a year ago during the same period.

Nearby hogs down, others up

CME October and December hogs dropped on profit taking and as packer demand for hogs subsided after they bought what they need for the rest of the week, said analysts and traders.

Also, the spot October contract, which will expire on Friday, is at a modestly bearish premium to the exchange’s lean hog index at 81.78 cents.

Spot October hogs closed down 0.25 cent/lb., or 0.3 per cent, to 82.325 cents. December ended 0.6 cent lower, or 0.77 per cent, at 77.5 cents.

Some December futures investors sold that contract in anticipation of plentiful hog supplies during that time frame, a trader said. That is when abundant supplies during the winter holidays typically outstrip demand for hogs, he said.

He added that speculative buyers had bought 2013 trading months with the view that hog farmers may continue to cull their herds to offset high feed costs.

— Theopolis Waters writes for Reuters from Chicago.

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