U.S. livestock: Hog futures drop in technical sell-off

Winter storm expectation puts cattle market 'on hold'

february hogs
CME February 2019 lean hogs with 50-day moving average. (Barchart)

Chicago | Reuters — U.S. lean hog futures fell for the second straight session on Monday, sliding to a one-week low on pressure from technical selling and a lack of bullish information to propel gains, traders and analysts said.

Feeder cattle futures also eased to the lowest since Jan. 7, while more actively traded live cattle notched small gains as traders awaited to see how beef packers would bid for cattle in cash markets this week.

Chicago Mercantile Exchange February lean hogs fell 0.8 cent, to 61.85 cents/lb. (all figures US$). The contract had jumped to a multiweek peak on Thursday before turning lower the past two sessions.

Expectations that China, where hog producers have culled herds in efforts to slow the spread of the African swine fever virus, might import pork from overseas markets including the U.S. helped prop up prices.

But U.S. cash hog prices have been weak so far this month while much of the data on exports typically published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture has been suspended because of the partial government shutdown. That has left traders in the dark and weighed on hog prices.

“It’s not that transparent but actions speak louder than words,” U.S. Commodities analyst Don Roose said, adding that prices for hogs and pork likely would rise if more supplies were being exported.

“The hog market technically had a breakout to the downside and we are getting some follow-through technical selling,” he added.

Forecasts for a severe winter storm to move through the U.S. Plains and Midwest regions — the second such storm in an as many weeks — underpinned livestock futures. As much as 15 inches (38 cm) of snow was possible in parts of the central U.S. by this weekend, according to meteorologist Radiant Solutions.

The weather could impede shipments of cattle, potentially forcing packers to pay higher prices. Cattle last week fetched mostly $124/cwt, in sales that were up $1 per ton from the previous week.

“The cattle market is on hold,” Roose said. “We have another storm in the forecast.”

CME February live cattle settled up 0.45 cent, to 125.425 cents/lb., and March feeder cattle down 0.5 cent to 144.4 cents.

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

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