U.S. livestock: Cattle stumble on profit-taking, lower cash trades

Chicago | Reuters — Chicago Mercantile Exchange live cattle futures notched their largest daily losses in nearly a month on Wednesday, pressured by profit-taking and weaker trades in U.S. Plains cash cattle markets, traders said.

Feeder cattle futures fell nearly two per cent and lean hogs ebbed from their session highs, with each easing in sympathy with declines in more actively traded live cattle.

CME April live cattle futures settled down 1.5 cents to 126.225 cents/lb. (all figures US$). The roughly 1.2 per cent drop was the biggest since Jan. 25, and the contract continued to fall from Tuesday’s multimonth peak of 130.525 cents.

CME March feeder cattle finished 3.15 cents lower at 146.65 cents/lb., the lowest since Feb. 12.

The lack of follow-through to new highs triggered selling in cattle, said FuturesOne broker Matthew Wiegand.

“In the absence of being able to extend higher, and with the Cattle on Feed report coming up, it’s probably a good spot for recent longs to get out,” Wiegand said.

Traders were evening positions ahead of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s monthly Cattle on Feed report due on Friday, in which analysts expected a slight increase in the number of cattle placed on feed for fattening in January.

Analysts expected USDA in a monthly cold storage report on Thursday to show beef stocks in January at 495.4 million lbs. and 549.1 million lbs. for pork.

Cash cattle fetched $128/cwt at feedlots in Texas, Kansas and Nebraska, in deals that were $2 lower than the previous week, traders said.

Choice-grade wholesale boxed beef was up $1.45, to $217.37/cwt, and wholesale pork down 99 cents to $78.73/cwt, according to USDA. Cash hogs in Iowa and Minnesota were 55 cents lower at $63.84/cwt, the government agency said.

CME April lean hog futures settled up 0.7 cent at 69.9 cents/lb. after earlier reaching a high of 70.55 cents.

Wiegand said some pork packers were reducing plans for their hog slaughter on Saturday, which could keep a lid on demand and prices for hogs in cash markets. “There’s a lack of midweek enthusiasm,” he said.

— Michael Hirtzer reports on commodity markets for Reuters from Chicago; additional reporting by Theopolis Waters.

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