U.S. livestock: Cattle ease on profit-taking, lack of cash sales

(Photo courtesy Canada Beef Inc.)

Chicago | Reuters — U.S. cattle futures eased on Friday as traders locked in profits following two straight sessions of higher prices and as beef packers bought few animals in cash cattle markets, traders and analysts said.

Expectations that meat packers might pay prices roughly steady with cattle sales of about $109/cwt a week ago helped to propel futures prices higher on Wednesday and Thursday (all figures US$).

But little trading in cash cattle was reported by the time futures markets closed on Friday ahead of a three-day weekend marking Monday’s Labour Day holiday.

Cattle was “under pressure from a continued lack of cash trade in Plains direct markets and weaker wholesale beef prices,” brokerage Brock and Associates said in a note.

Chicago Mercantile Exchange October live cattle finished 0.3 cent lower at 108.775 cents/lb. while the August contract expired down three cents at 106.8 cents. CME September feeder cattle were off 0.725 cent, to 149.45 cents/lb.

A few slaughter-weight cattle sold in Nebraska at about $107-$107.50/cwt while some feedlots in Kansas and Texas still were holding out in the hopes of selling at $110 or more, traders said.

“Cash traded lower than last week in thin volume,” CHS Hedging said in a note.

Hog futures continued to move in the opposite direction of cattle, with hogs rising on Friday after declining during the past two sessions. Traders were exiting short positions ahead of the three-day holiday weekend.

October lean hog futures jumped 1.3 cents, to 50.425 cents/lb., and December was up 0.775 cents to 53.4 cents.

Hogs had surged early this week on optimism of a speedy resolution to the NAFTA talks but eased back as it became clear negotiations were likely to drag on beyond this week. Mexico, the top importer of U.S. pork, put a tariff on imports; a new deal could result in that tariff being removed.

Additionally, worries of an expanding outbreak of African swine fever in China — the world’s biggest hog and pork producer — stoked concerns that China may have to increase pork imports if the disease worsens.

The fifth case of the ASF disease was discovered this week in China, providing some support to the U.S. hog market.

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

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