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U.S. livestock: Live cattle gain on short-covering

CME live cattle futures rose on Thursday on short-covering after recent market losses and on investors pricing in initial cash sales, traders said.

On Thursday, cash cattle in Kansas and Texas lightly traded at $131 per hundredweight (cwt), $1 lower than the previous week, feedlot sources said (all figures US$).

Lacklustre beef demand and poor packer margins pressured this week’s cash cattle prices.

“It wasn’t much of a surprise where cash is trading,” said Craig Turner, commodities broker at Daniels Trading.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s choice beef wholesale price on Thursday morning was $198.47/cwt, down 87 cents from Wednesday. Select cuts fell $1.68, to $185.62.

Beef packer margins on Thursday were estimated at a negative $61.15 per head, compared with a negative $60.70 on Wednesday and a negative $27.90 a week ago, according to HedgersEdge.com.

Investors adjusted positions ahead of the federal government’s monthly cattle on feed report to be released Friday at 2 p.m. CST.

Analysts expect Friday’s data to show the number of cattle placed in feedlots in October increased year-over-year as less-costly corn improved profits for feedlots.

“We really sold off hard the last couple days. You usually see people lighten up ahead of a big report,” Turner said.

Also on Friday, USDA will simultaneously issue its monthly cold storage report. The data will include total October beef and pork inventories.

Live cattle December finished 0.4 cent per pound higher at 131.45 cents. February closed up 0.4 cent, at 132.35 cents. It finished above the 100-day moving average
of 131.95 cents.

CME November feeder cattle were guided by the exchange’s feeder cattle index at 164.82 cents. Other feeder cattle contracts drew support from the higher live cattle market.

November feeder cattle, which will expire on Nov. 22, closed at 164.8 cents, up 0.225 cent. January ended at 163.375 cents, up 0.625 cent.

Cash price press hog futures

CME hog futures ended steady to lower, pressured by weaker cash hog and wholesale pork prices, traders and analysts said.

USDA on Thursday morning reported the average cash hog price at the closely watched Iowa/Minnesota market at $76.54/cwt, down $2.02 from Wednesday.

Thursday morning’s wholesale pork price was down 56 cents from Wednesday to $89.33 per cwt, USDA said.

Wholesale pork prices have declined in recent days as more product enters the meat pipeline due to ample seasonal supplies at heavier weights.

Pork packer margins remain firmly in the black as processors pay less for hogs.

HedgersEdge.com calculated pork packer margins on Thursday at a positive $15.95 head, compared with a positive $16.90 on Wednesday and a positive $16.30 a week ago.

December hog futures eased from a session high, weighed by its premium to CME’s hog index, which was at 82.83 cents, a trader said. December hogs settled unchanged at 86.25 cents.

February hogs closed down 0.35 cent at 90.575 cents. It finished below the 40-day and 10-day moving averages of 90.63 and 90.76 cents, respectively.

— Meredith Davis reports on U.S. ag commodities for Reuters from Chicago.

Related story:
Cash-poor USDA again drops cattle inventory report, Nov. 19, 2013

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