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U.S. livestock: CME live cattle down, but off seven-week lows

Chicago | Reuters — Chicago Mercantile Exchange live cattle slid to a seven-week bottom on Thursday, led by fund liquidation, traders said.

Futures’ discount to this week’s slaughter-ready, or cash, cattle prices freed contracts from session lows, they said.

April closed 1.2 cents/lb. at 121.775 cents (all figures US$). June finished 1.55 cents lower at 113.275 cents.

CME live cattle struggled to escape trade war fears despite President Donald Trump dialing back talk of stiffer metal tariffs for key U.S trading allies.

January U.S. beef exports accounted for roughly 12 per cent of total domestic production, and pork about 25 per cent, according to industry experts.

“The backdrop of uncertainty in global trade, in the news since late last week, hasn’t helped,” said Cassandra Fish, author of industry blog The Beef, referring to Thursday’s cattle futures selloff.

“Some thought the hint yesterday by the White House that Mexico and Canada might be exempt from any action would help a cattle futures rally today; it did not,” she said.

Instead, futures found an ally in late-session buyers after packers in Nebraska and Kansas paid $127/cwt for cattle that fetched $126 on Wednesday.

In the face of slumping futures prices, most feedlots resisted selling cattle based on rising packer profits, said traders and analysts.

Thursday was the second of five days that funds in CME’s livestock markets that follow the Standard + Poor’s Goldman Sachs Commodity Index sold, or “rolled,” April futures into the June contract.

Technical selling, higher corn prices and CME live cattle futures losses slammed the exchange’s feeder cattle contracts.

March feeders ended 2.025 cents/lb. lower at 141.75 cents.

Hogs finish mostly weaker

Most CME lean hog contracts closed weaker on spillover cattle market pressure and trade war concerns, said traders.

Mexico and Canada are the top- and fourth-ranked markets for U.S. pork by volume, said industry experts.

April hogs drew support from higher cash prices, but slumping wholesale pork values capped market advances.

April hogs closed up 0.275 cent/lb. at 68.075 cents. May finished down 0.25 cent at 72.35 cents, and June ended 0.35 cent lower at 78.25 cents.

Packers raised bids for hogs to maintain market share and take advantage of their good profits, a trader said.

Wholesale pork values were largely dragged down by sharply lower pork belly prices to entice end-users to store product for spring and summer use, he said.

— Reporting for Reuters by Theopolis Waters in Chicago.

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