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U.S. livestock: Cattle surge to contract highs on higher cash prices

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(Photo courtesy Canada Beef Inc.)

Chicago | Reuters –– U.S. live cattle and feeder cattle futures contracts surged to lifetime peaks on Monday, boosted by unexpectedly high-priced sales in cash cattle markets that occurred after the futures close on Friday, traders said.

Cattle futures on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange surpassed Friday’s highs when trade resumed on Monday and some contracts briefly rose by their daily price limits, before finishing slightly below those levels.

“We expected a gap higher and we got it,” said Zaner Ag Hedge broker Tim Hackbarth.

Most-active CME December live cattle settled 2.575 cents higher at 123.4 cents/lb., off their earlier life-of-contract high 123.825 cents (all figures US$). The October contract, which has no price limit ahead of its expiration on Tuesday, climbed 4.2 cents to 119.575 cents.

The futures gains came after cattle at U.S. Plains feedlots sold between $116 to $119/cwt on Friday, deals that were up $6 to $9 per higher than the previous week.

Beef packers were buying aggressively to satisfy expanding seasonal consumer demand ahead of the holidays and to take advantage of big packer profit margins that were linked to rising wholesale beef prices.

Choice-grade beef prices were up two cents to $203.32/cwt, highest in more than two months, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data.

Cattle futures were trading at a premium to the cash market on expectations that beef packer demand will remain robust, Hackbarth said.

“There’s certainly really good movement of beef,” he said.

CME January feeder cattle futures settled up 1.4 cents at 157.35 cents/lb. after earlier reaching 159.825 cents/lb.

Cash feeder steer and heifers fetched prices up as much as $9/cwt at a closely watched auction in Oklahoma City, USDA said.

CME lean hog futures were higher, tracking gains in cattle prices amid support from technical buying after hogs fell on Friday. CME December lean hog futures settled up 0.725 cent at 65.175 cents/lb.

Hogs in the top cash market of Iowa and southern Minnesota were up $1.23, to $64.91/cwt, and wholesale pork up $1.32, to $78.88/cwt, according to USDA.

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

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