U.S. livestock: Cattle limit down on equities downturn

Chicago | Reuters — U.S. cattle futures tumbled more than two per cent on Monday, falling in sympathy with steep downturns in equities markets and following disappointing trades last week in cash cattle.

Front-month live and feeder plummeted by their respective daily price limits of three and 4.5 cents/lb., with feeder cattle extending losses to the fourth straight session (all figures US$). February lean hogs were higher but all other hog contracts lost ground, retreating from recent highs.

“We’re kind of hooked at the hip with the fear factor in equities. The Dow (Jones industrial average) being down slipped into demand perceptions (for beef), whether or not that’s a reality,” said Steve Erdman, analyst at EFG Group.

Chicago Mercantile Exchange livestock futures often trade in tandem with equities markets on ideas that weaker returns in stocks could force well-heeled consumers to reduce purchases of pricy cuts of beef. Beef’s premium to pork has been on a month-long skid as shoppers favour cheaper pork cuts such as loins.

Beef packers have responded to the slower retail demand by reducing their slaughter, contributing to sluggish action in U.S. Plains cattle markets.

“We still aren’t price-competitive with pork,” Erdman added. “The retailers haven’t brought prices down enough to clean the coolers out. We aren’t seeing demand at these levels.”

CME live cattle for February delivery fell three cents to 133.05 cents/lb., the lowest since Jan. 27. Feeders for March delivery were down 4.5 cents to 149.325, their lowest since Jan. 20.

Price limits in live cattle will be expanded to 4.5 cents for Tuesday’s session and feeder cattle limits to 6.75 cents, the CME Group said on its website.

Stock indexes including the Dow Jones trimmed losses late in the session, but only after livestock futures trading was all but finished for the day.

CME February lean hogs was up 0.225 cent at 65.025 cents/lb. But more-active April hogs eased 0.575 cent to 69.725 cents/lb., far below the roughly three-month high of 71.125 cents reached a week ago.

Weather conditions were improving in key states of Iowa and Minnesota after snowfall last week hampered hog shipments. The better conditions could result in a higher volume of animals offered at market, weighing on prices, traders said.

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

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