U.S. cattle hit eight-month high in post-holiday trading

U.S. live cattle futures on Friday scored an eight-month high in thin post-Thanksgiving Day (U.S.) trade, in part bolstered by strong cash cattle prices and solid beef demand, said analysts and traders.

Chicago Mercantile Exchange live cattle also finished the week up 2.2 per cent amid fund buying and triple-digit stock market gains following the kickoff of the holiday shopping season.

"It was a dangerous day because there were fewer traders that participated because of the holiday and there was nothing fundamentally to hold the market back," said Oak Investment Group president Joe Ocrant.

Live cattle December closed 0.875 cent per pound higher, or 0.68 per cent, at 128.95 cents. February ended at 132.725 cents, 1.1 cents higher or 0.84 per cent (all figures US$).

Before Thursday’s holiday break, packers in the U.S. Plains on Wednesday paid $128 per cwt for cattle in the cash market, which was $2 to $3 higher than last week, said feedlot sources.

Processors spent more for cattle to accommodate the slaughter schedule for next week, the first full workweek after the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday.

Traders were also encouraged by beef prices at wholesale that likely rose after plants closed for Thursday’s holiday, reducing the flow of meat to retailers.

The wholesale price for choice beef Friday morning was $195.99 per hundredweight (cwt), $1.10 higher than Wednesday, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Separate supportive government data reported beef exports last week at a net 15,300 tonnes, mostly for Mexico. That was up 35 per cent from the previous week and down one per cent from the prior four-week average.

CME feeder cattle hit a near four-month high, and was up 1.51 per cent for the week, on live cattle market gains and chart-related buying.

January feeder cattle closed up 0.5 cents/lb., or 0.34 percent, to 147.875 cents. March ended at 150.425 cents, up 0.45 cents or 0.3 per cent.

Hogs gain

Hog futures closed higher Friday, and gained 2.2 per cent for the week, on expectations that packers may raise bids for hogs on Monday for next week’s slaughter, said analysts and traders.

Processors may also look to buy hogs amid indications of tighter supplies based on the year-over-year decline in hog weights.

USDA’s data on Friday showed average live-basis hog weights nationally for the week of Nov. 24 at 275 lbs., steady with last week and down three pounds from the same period a year ago.

Futures posted advances in the face of the government’s report monthly livestock slaughter report, released earlier on Friday.

That data indicated pork production in October hit an all-time high after that month’s hog slaughter topped the previous record high for any month.

"People were more focused on the cash trade than what the report had to say because it is dated," a trader said.

He said packers lowered cash bids on Friday, as they typically do, after buying all they need for Saturday’s USDA estimated 364,000-head kill.

USDA Friday morning showed the average hog price in the most-watched Iowa/Minnesota market at $75.04/cwt, down $1.48 from Wednesday.

December hogs settled at 82.475 cents/lb., up 0.725 cent, or 0.89 per cent and peaked at a seven-month high. February closed at 87.375 cents, up 0.25 cent or 0.29 per cent.

– Theopolis Waters writes for Reuters from Chicago.