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U.S. livestock: Trade fights continue to batter live cattle, lean hogs

Chicago | Reuters — Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) live cattle and lean hog futures fell for a second trading day on Monday — with live cattle futures hitting a near-10 month low — amid robust supplies and trade fights quelling export demand, traders said.

But trade issues helped feeder cattle futures settle the day slightly up, thanks largely to a dip in U.S. corn futures.

Chicago Board of Trade corn futures ended Monday on a negative note, amid uncertainty over U.S. corn planting progress and the ongoing threat of U.S. tariffs against Mexico, a top corn buyer.

Still, trade fears weighed heavily on the livestock futures market overall. The market continued to wrestle with whether Mexico will retaliate against President Donald Trump’s threats to levy duties on all Mexican imports unless it curbs illegal immigration, adding to global growth worries.

Mexico is the biggest importer of U.S. pork and the third biggest importer of U.S. beef.

Meanwhile, the trade war between the United States and China shows little sign of easing any time soon, “so the hopes that China would be buying beef from us have been pushed to the back burner,” said Don Roose, president of U.S. Commodities in West Des Moines, Iowa.

Roose said funds liquidating their long positions has weighed heavily on livestock futures prices. So too has the fact that U.S. supplies of both hogs and cattle are outstripping demand.

And live cattle prices could continue to slump this week, traders cautioned. A cash trade of $113/cwt seen in Kansas on Monday was not a good sign for a price rally, said Jeff French, analyst with Top Third Ag Marketing in Chicago (all figures US$).

“It’s never a friendly signal to see cash prices lower on Monday or Tuesday than they were the week before,” French said. “Most people anticipate that if you’re at $113 on Monday, you’ll be trading in the $110s by Friday.”

August feeder cattle finished Monday up 0.575 cent at 133.5 cents/lb. and September feeders settled up 0.25 cent to 134.125 cents.

June live cattle dropped 1.7 cents to 106.775 cents/lb., and most actively traded August fell 0.275 cents to 102.8 cents.

The front-month live cattle contract hit its lowest since Aug. 27, 2018.

CME June lean hogs closed down 0.15 cent at 81.575 cents/lb. while most actively traded July hogs ended down 1.4 cents at 84.525 cents.

— P.J. Huffstutter reports on agriculture and agribusiness for Reuters from Chicago.

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