U.S. livestock futures were mostly higher on Friday, with cattle futures recouping a portion of their losses from earlier this week in a technical rebound and hogs recovering from steep declines in the past two sessions, traders said.
Signs of stabilizing prices in U.S. cash cattle markets after weeks of weaker prices buoyed live and feeder cattle futures at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange even as wholesale beef prices continued to fall.
Most-active CME August live cattle edged 0.175 cent lower to 114.775 cents per pound while most other contracts notched modest gains. The August contract shed 1.3 percent for the week and has lost ground in four out of the past five weeks.
CME August feeder cattle were up 0.400 cent to 145.025 cents but declined nearly 2 percent for the week.
Cattle fetched mostly $117 to $118 per cwt in U.S. Plains cash cattle deals earlier this week, in sales marginally better than what some traders were anticipating. The cash trades helped futures recover from a two-month low on Thursday.
Still, demand for beef slows as consumers cook fewer steaks, chops and roasts in the peak heat of the summer, and the weaker meat prices often spill over into cattle prices.
"I'm bearish on the cattle until I see some stability in the beef," said independent livestock futures trader Dan Norcini. "There's not real strong demand for the beef at this time of year."
The U.S. Department of Agriculture said choice-grade wholesale beef was down $1.21 to $218.84 per cwt, lowest in more than two months.
Pork Belly Prices Near Record High
Wholesale pork prices were moving in the opposite direction, with the pork cutout up $1.12 to $104.96 per cwt, highest in more than two years, USDA data showed.
Prices for pork bellies used to make bacon surged $5.73 to $206.96 per cwt, near the record of $212.95 in April 2014.
"The cutout, and belly cuts in particular, is what's supporting (hog) prices," Norcini said.
Hog cash prices and futures have tracked gains in pork prices even as the U.S. hog herd was bigger than ever.
Most-active CME August lean hog futures finished 0.575 cent higher at 83.225 cents per pound while front-month July hog futures climbed 0.250 cent to 91.725 cents.