U.S. livestock: Weaker cash, pork prices drop CME hogs

(Gloria Solano-Aguilar photo courtesy ARS/USDA)

Chicago | Reuters — Chicago Mercantile Exchange lean hog futures on Friday were pressured by lower cash and wholesale pork prices, said traders.

They said February futures lost technical support while other contracts triggered sell stops after drifting below Thursday’s lows.

February hogs closed down 0.225 cent/lb. to 73.175 cents, below the 20-day moving average of 73.204 cents. Most-active April finished 0.6 cent lower at 68.85 cents.

A wide swath of snow in the U.S. Midwest snarled transportation of hogs and shut down at least two packing plants, traders and analysts said.

Some packers avoided paying more for hogs while trying to improve their margins that were capped by the drop in wholesale pork values due to slumping pork belly prices.

Still, lower wholesale pork belly prices might encourage processors and bacon slicers to store more product for late spring and summer use, a trader said.

Mostly weak live cattle, again

CME live cattle contracts ended Friday’s session as it did on Thursday, mostly weaker as investors waited for this week’s weather-influenced cash cattle prices, said traders.

Snow drifts in feedlots make it difficult to sort and load cattle, while cold temperatures slow animal weight gains. Both factors limit supplies to processors.

February futures were supported by this week’s potential cash outcome, but other contracts were pressured by forecasts for increased supplies ahead.

“We should have a month or two of tighter (cattle) numbers up front, but then the numbers get pretty sizeable once again,” said INTL FCStone chief commodities economist Arlan Suderman.

February live cattle closed up 0.75 cent/lb. at 126.525 cents. April ended down 0.1 cent at 123.625 cents, and June finished down 0.1 cent at 115.425 cents.

Wintry weather in the U.S. Plains and packers that raised bids to $126/cwt on Friday from $124 earlier this week encouraged February futures buyers.

Feedlots this week are asking $129-$130/cwt for their animals that last week brought $125 to $126.

Some processors may think twice about spending more for supplies, as beef demand struggles against plentiful competitively-priced pork and chicken.

When you look at expectations for increased beef, pork and poultry production this year, “that’s a lot of protein hitting the market,” said Suderman.

Technical selling and weaker back-month CME live cattle futures dragged down the exchange’s feeder cattle contracts.

March feeders ended 0.9 cent/lb. lower at 147.75 cents.

— Reporting for Reuters by Theopolis Waters in Chicago.

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