USDA to evaluate new release schedule for livestock reports

(USDA.gov via Flickr)

Chicago | Reuters — The U.S. Department of Agriculture is analyzing information and surveying the livestock sector to determine whether the agency should change the times it releases cattle and hog reports, a top agency official said on Tuesday.

USDA is open to changing its schedules in 2019 if the review indicates that is warranted, Dan Kerestes, director of the statistics division for the agency’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, said at an industry meeting.

“That is something we will have to evaluate,” Kerestes said.

Livestock analysts are pushing USDA to alter the release times for the reports, which generally are released after futures markets are closed. Some analysts want the reports to come out during the cattle and hog futures trading session at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.

USDA only rarely releases its monthly Cattle on Feed report during the trading session, such as the May 25 report that will come out at 12 p.m. ET, ahead of a three-day holiday weekend. Typically, the report is published on the third or fourth Friday of the month at 3 p.m. ET.

USDA’s Hogs and Pigs report is published at the end of each quarter, giving traders supply information that often results in volatile swings in hog prices.

“The industry at large would prefer a tradeable report,” said Allendale Inc. analyst Rich Nelson.

In contrast to livestock reports, USDA several years ago moved to release its monthly grain reports at noon Eastern time, during the CME Group grains trading session.

Any schedule change for the livestock reports would be announced before October, Kerestes said.

Some analysts favour releasing reports outside of market hours, providing traders time to digest the data. Ahead of holiday weekends, for example, USDA could release data after Thursday’s market close, said Jim Robb, an economist at the Livestock Marketing Information Center.

“We think especially on those days, it is better to release it Thursday after the markets, and give everybody time to deal with it,” Robb said.

When markets are released during market hours, high-frequency trading (HFT) programs can respond in milliseconds.

“If the release of reports were moved to a time of day when markets are open… I think that would benefit HFT much more than end-users,” said Calvin Hui, a trader with Gator Trading Partners.

Reporting for Reuters by Julie Ingerwersen and Michael Hirtzer.

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