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U.S. livestock: Live cattle, feeders fall to contract lows on fund selling

(Photo courtesy Canada Beef Inc.)

Chicago | Reuters — U.S. live cattle and feeder cattle futures plunged to contract lows on Tuesday while lean hogs also extended recent losses, pulled down by ample supplies of animals for slaughter, and meat in storage.

Expectations for lower cattle prices in cash markets also weighed. Live cattle and feeder cattle had declined by their daily prices limits at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange on Monday, and briefly fell by expanded price limits on Tuesday.

“Yesterday’s close was bad enough that we knew we had to test the lows,” said David Hales, author of analyst note Hales Cattle Letter, adding that investors were liquidating long positions.

Live cattle for December delivery settled 3.6 cents lower at 128.325 cents/lb., the lowest since Oct. 2. The contract earlier tumbled by its 4.5-cent daily limit, reaching a lifetime low of 127.425.

November feeder cattle eased 5.575 cents, to 171.55 cents/lb., also its lowest since Oct. 2, after declining by 6.75 cents, to 170.375. The November contract held just above its lifetime low, while all deferred months fell to new lows.

“The heavy selling we’ve seen in the past two days, and in the past week, is getting us into oversold territory,” said Craig VanDyke, an analyst at brokerage Top Third Ag Marketing.

Some technical traders bought the contracts at the lows on ideas that prices may have reached at least a short-term bottom, the analysts said.

However, the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Oct. 22 said there were record amounts of beef and pork in storage for this time of year, and prices for each meat have been drifting mostly lower ever since.

Hog production was expected to be record-large this year while the U.S. cattle herd was slowly expanding at heavier weights following a drought in 2012 that decimated the cattle industry.

Wholesale pork prices are the lowest since May, but demand has been picking up slightly, VanDyke said.

Lean hog futures for December delivery edged 0.175 cent higher to 53.55 cents/lb., after earlier hitting a six-year low on a continuous chart. It was only the second close of higher prices in the last 15 sessions.

“The strengthened spot demand might be getting the market excited as we sit in these oversold conditions,” VanDyke said of lean hog futures.

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

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