Weaker Cash, Pork Prices Drop CME Futures; Live Cattle Lower

Winter weather caused problems for hog and cattle marketers this past week, influencing futures markets for both commodities. ( Photo: AgWeb )

Chicago Mercantile Exchange lean hog futures on Friday were pressured by lower cash and wholesale pork prices, said traders.

They said February futures lost technical support while other contracts triggered sell stops after drifting below Thursday's lows.

February hogs closed down 0.225 cent per pound to 73.175 cents, below the 20-day moving average of 73.204 cents. Most-active April finished 0.600 cent lower at 68.850 cents.

A wide swath of snow in the U.S. Midwest snarled transportation of hogs and shut down at least two packing plants, traders and analysts said.

Some packers avoided paying more for hogs while trying to improve their margins that were capped by the drop in wholesale

pork values due to slumping pork belly prices. Still, lower wholesale pork belly prices might encourage processors and bacon slicers to store more product for late spring and summer use, a trader said.

Mostly Weak Live Cattle, Again

CME live cattle contracts ended Friday's session as it did on Thursday, mostly weaker as investors waited for this week's weather-influenced cash cattle prices, said traders.

Snow drifts in feedlots make it difficult to sort and load cattle, while cold temperatures slow animal weight gains. Both factors limit supplies to processors.

February futures were supported by this week's potential cash outcome, but other contracts were pressured by forecasts for increased supplies ahead.

"We should have a month or two of tighter (cattle) numbers up front, but then the numbers get pretty sizeable once again," said INTL FCStone chief commodities economist Arlan Suderman.

February live cattle closed up 0.750 cent per pound at 126.525 cents. April ended down 0.100 cent at 123.625 cents, and June finished down 0.100 cent at 115.425 cents.

Wintry weather in the U.S. Plains and packers that raised bids to $126 per cwt on Friday from $124 earlier this week encouraged February futures buyers.

Feedlots this week are asking $129 to $130 per cwt for their animals that last week brought $125 to $126. Some processors may think twice about spending more for supplies, as beef demand struggles against plentiful competitively-priced pork and chicken.

When you look at expectations for increased beef, pork and poultry production this year, "that's a lot of protein hitting the market," said Suderman.

Technical selling and weaker back-month CME live cattle futures dragged down the exchange's feeder cattle contracts, March feeders ended 0.900 cent per pound lower at 147.750 cents.