U.S. livestock: Live cattle hit seven-week high on packer margins

CORRECTED, March 17 — Chicago | Reuters — U.S. live cattle futures rose to a seven-week high on Thursday, boosted by recent gains in beef prices that increased profit margins for meat packers, traders and analysts said.

Technical buying also was noted, with some investors buying back positions in front-month Chicago Mercantile Exchange April live cattle futures. April cattle rose more than one per cent for the second straight session, finishing up 1.5 cents to 119.2 cents/lb., highest since Jan. 25.

CME April feeder cattle futures touched the highest levels since Aug. 23 before trimming gains, settling up 1.85 cents to 130.55 cents/lb. The contract has climbed in six out of the past seven trading sessions.

Wholesale beef prices were hovering near their highest since July, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data. Beef packers could earn $130.45 for each cattle they processed, according to consultancy HedgersEdge LLC.

“Live cattle futures have surged on this week’s robust cash trade and technical buying,” brokerage Brock and Associates said in a note to clients, recommending that subscribers exit some of their short April live cattle positions.

Open interest in April live and feeder cattle declined during Wednesday’s session of higher prices, suggesting short-covering, CME Group data showed early on Thursday.

Cash cattle in Kansas traded at $128/cwt on Wednesday, up $3 from the previous week.

Hogs trade mixed

Lean hog futures were narrowly mixed in bear-spreading, with nearby contracts easing narrowly while some deferred contracts such as July hogs were slightly higher. Front-month April lean hog futures were down 0.175 cent to 69.9 cents/lb., declining for the second straight session.

Hog traders continued to grapple with nearly record-large U.S. hog and pork production and relatively aggressive buying by pork packers and retailers. Pork prices were at the highest in three years for this time of year, implying good demand, according to Tim Hughes, leader of the hog margin team at Commodity and Ingredient Hedging.

“On the other hand, we continue to see record production… and a softening in the pace of weekly export sales. Therefore, the market continues to move in a fairly small trading range,” Hughes said.

USDA earlier said U.S. pork export sales in the week ended March 9 totaled 12,900 tonnes, down nearly 30 per cent from the previous week. Weekly U.S. beef export sales totaled 16,100 tonnes, down four per cent from a week ago.

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

CORRECTION from Reuters, March 17, 2017: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated pork prices were “at the highest in five years for this time of year.”


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