U.S. livestock: Cattle ease on profit-taking but gain for week

Chicago | Reuters — U.S. live cattle futures fell more than one per cent on Friday, snapping their longest streak of gains in a month as investors locked in profits ahead of the three-day July 4 holiday weekend, traders said.

Feeder cattle futures also slumped in a profit-taking setback while lean hogs were narrowly mixed in a relatively quiet session at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.

“We were up four days in a row. It’s profit-taking before the three-day weekend,” said Domenic Varricchio, analyst at brokerage Schwieterman Inc.

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Live cattle jumped to a two-week high on Thursday but prices failed to surpass those peaks, triggering a round of selling. The earlier gains were prompted in part by aggressive buying from beef packers, who paid about $122/cwt for cattle in U.S. Plains cash markets, up from trades of $116 last week (all figures US$).

CME August live cattle settled 1.85 cents lower at 112.975 cents/lb. The contract gained 1.9 per cent for the week, the first weekly gain in four weeks and largest since April.

Feeder cattle for August delivery finished 1.85 cents lower at 142.45 cents/lb. Feeders climbed two per cent this week, their biggest gains since March. A steep downturn in corn prices, which reduced costs for fattening cattle, helped to boost feeder cattle from last week’s three-year lows.

Lean hogs were mixed, with front-month July declining while most-active August hog futures were up 0.675 cent, to 83.95 cents/lb. Hogs on a continuous chart fell 4.1 per cent for the week in the largest drop since April.

Investors were liquidating long bets on hogs following a U.S. Department of Agriculture report released a week ago that showed a larger-than-expected herd.

Seasonally weak cash hog and pork prices also weighed, as retailers slowed purchases after stocking refrigerators with meat for outdoor grilling demand during the U.S. July 4 holiday weekend.

August hog futures rebounded from a more than three-week low reached on Thursday.

“Today was a technical bounce in an oversold market, nothing more than that,” said an independent hog trader.

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

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