U.S. livestock: Cattle rise as cash prices surge

Chicago | Reuters — Chicago Mercantile Exchange live cattle surged to contract highs on Thursday and closed up the daily limit in most contacts on stronger-than-expected cash markets and robust demand for beef, traders said.

The front-month contract hit a 13-month peak as the market closed higher for the fifteenth time in 16 sessions.

April futures, which expire on Friday, closed 2.2 cents/lb. higher at 135.6 cents while actively-traded June ended three cents higher at 121.525 cents (all figures US$).

June though April 2018 contracts all closed up the daily three-cent limit, triggering expanded limits of 4.5 cents for Friday’s session. The expiring April contract’s limit will remain at five cents.

Feedlot cattle in the U.S. Plains traded $4 to $6/cwt higher than a week ago amid smaller showlists and strong demand for beef, traders said. Grocers and restaurants are stocking up for Mother’s Day promotions, which is expected to support wholesale beef values, they said.

“They (packers) need them and that’s why they’re out there paying up for these fat cattle. The cash is king this week,” said Domenic Varricchio, a broker with Schwieterman Inc.

Thursday’s average wholesale choice beef price was three cents/cwt lower at $219.15 from Tuesday but select cuts jumped 96 cents to $206.68, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said.

CME feeder cattle followed live cattle higher as all traded months posted fresh contract highs and May through November closed up their daily 4.5-cent price limit.

Trading limits will be expanded to 6.75 cents on Friday, per contract guidelines.

April feeder cattle, set to expire on Friday, ended one cent/lb. higher at 140.85 cents. May closed up 4.5 cents at 146.575 cents.

Hogs rally

CME lean hogs were lifted by short-covering and fund buying amid higher cash and wholesale pork prices.

Cash hogs in the closely-followed Iowa and Minnesota direct markets traded $1.18/cwt higher while the wholesale cash pork cutout value gained 18 cents to $73.65/cwt, USDA said.

May lean hog futures closed 2.225 cents/lb. higher at 66.9 cents. Most-actively traded June ended 2.075 cents higher at 72.825 cents.

— Karl Plume reports on agriculture and ag commodity markets for Reuters from Chicago.

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