U.S. livestock: Live cattle ease ahead of USDA report

Chicago Mercantile Exchange live cattle settled narrowly mixed on Friday pressured by lower beef prices this week and by investors adjusting positions before the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s monthly cattle-on-feed report at 2 p.m. CST, traders and analysts said.

Analysts expect the report to show an increase in the number of cattle placed in feedlots in October versus a year earlier as less-costly corn improved profits for feedlots.

USDA will simultaneously issue its monthly cold storage report. The data will include total October beef and pork inventories.

“We’re seeing some position squaring going on before the (USDA) report is released. But the main impetus for weak (live cattle) futures is the Thursday afternoon wholesale beef which showed some significant losses,” said Dan Vaught, livestock analyst at Doane.

USDA’s choice beef wholesale price on Thursday afternoon was $198.58 per hundredweight (cwt), down 76 cents from Wednesday (all figures US$). Select cuts fell 87 cents to $186.43.

“The morning Friday beef wholesale report was mixed, but that does not help a great deal before the close,” Vaught said.

USDA data showed choice wholesale beef cuts down 19 cents from Thursday at $198.39/cwt, while select cuts rose 40 cents to $186.83.

On Thursday, cash cattle in Kansas and Texas lightly traded at $131/cwt, $1 lower than the previous week, feedlot sources said.

There were some reports of additional light cash trade in Kansas on Friday at $130/cwt, with more sales anticipated after the USDA cattle report, a Kansas-based commodities broker said.

Lacklustre beef demand ahead of the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday combined with negative beef packer margins pressured this week’s cash cattle prices.

Beef packer margins on Friday were estimated at a negative $66.45 per head, compared with a negative $61.15 on Thursday and a negative $29.70 a week ago, according to HedgersEdge.com.

Live cattle futures for December finished up 0.025 cent/lb. at 131.475 cents. February closed down 0.55 cent at 131.8 cents.

CME November feeder cattle settled slightly higher following the December live cattle contract.

January ended up 0.125 cent/lb. at 163.5 cents. March ended at 163.375, down 0.1.

Pork price weighs on hog futures

CME hog futures traded lower on profit-taking and a weak wholesale pork price, traders and analysts said.

USDA on Friday morning reported the wholesale pork price was down 44 cents from Thursday, to $89.58/cwt.

Wholesale pork prices continue to decline as product supplies are boosted by a steady kill pace and record heavy hogs.

“Historically cash hog prices tend to reach seasonal lows in early to mid-November and we are past that window,” Vaught said.

Improved cash hog prices in the closely watched Iowa/Minnesota direct market limited hog futures decline. The average cash hog price at was at $78.25/cwt, up $1.78 from Thursday.

December hogs closed down 0.625 cent at 85.625 cents. It traded below the 10-day moving average of 86.23 cents.

February hogs closed down 0.9 cent at 89.675 cents.

— Meredith Davis reports on U.S. ag commodities for Reuters from Chicago.

Related story:
Cash-poor USDA again drops cattle inventory report, Nov. 19, 2013

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