U.S. livestock: Cattle hit four-week high on beef gains

Chicago | Reuters — U.S. live cattle futures jumped one per cent to the highest prices in about four weeks on Tuesday, boosted by technical buying and gains in wholesale beef prices, traders said.

Feeder cattle futures followed live cattle higher at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, while lean hogs were narrowly lower in light technical selling and on weaker cash hog prices, the traders said.

Wholesale beef was higher on Monday when futures markets were closed for the U.S. Presidents Day holiday. Meat prices extended those gains on Tuesday, with choice-grade beef rising 90 cents to $191.81/cwt, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (all figures US$).

CME February live cattle settled 1.175 cents higher at 119.1 cents/lb. The contract opened Tuesday’s trading above Friday’s session high, creating a chart gap between 118 and 118.325 cents that will be monitored by technical traders.

Investors were exiting February live cattle positions ahead of the Feb. 28 expiration, rolling deferred contracts such as most-active April live cattle, which finished 0.375 cent higher at 115.3 cents.

CME March feeder cattle settled 0.475 cent higher at 124.55 cents/lb., the highest close since Jan. 27 but well off the earlier session peak of 125.625 cents.

Prices for corn, typically the main input cost in fattening cattle, reversed higher late in Tuesday’s session and weighed on feeder cattle prices.

Cash feeders sold for steady to higher prices at a closely watched auction in Oklahoma City, USDA said on Monday.

Weaker cash hog prices weighed on some lean hog futures contracts. Hogs were down 57 cents to $73.64/cwt in the key Iowa and southern Minnesota market.

Wholesale pork prices were down 92 cents to $84.54/cwt, led by a $7.48 drop in pork belly prices.

Lean hog futures were consolidating in a relatively narrow range near their recent roughly eight-month high.

CME April lean hogs settled down 0.425 cent to 70.35 cents/lb., compared with their multi-month high of 72.65 cents reached on Feb. 8.

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

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