LIVESTOCK HIGHLIGHTS: Top Stories of the Day

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TOP STORIES

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Brazilian Court Unfreezes Accounts Belonging to JBS Owner -- Market Talk

8:28 ET - A Brazilian court late Tuesday said it reversed a decision that had frozen 800 million reais ($253M) in bank accounts belonging to Joesley Batista, one of the owners of behemoth meatpacker JBS SA. The Sao Paulo federal court said the decision to freeze the accounts, at the end of May, was made just before the businessman agreed to pay a 10.3 billion real fine as part of a leniency deal and, therefore, considered the measure no longer necessary. J&F Investimentos, the company that controls JBS and various other Brazilian businesses, agreed to the fine after admitting to paying millions of dollars, mostly in bribes, to Brazilian politicians that helped the group gain access to cheaper government financing. (luciana.magalhaes@wsj.com)

Campbell Soup Leaves Big Food Trade Association -- Market Talk

14:42 ET - Campbell Soup (CPB) is leaving the food industry's trade group saying it disagrees with some of its views on transparency. CPB supports GMO labeling on food packages and the new nutrition facts label, both of which the trade group has lobbied against. "Many of our beliefs have diverged from the rest of the food industry and from our trade association," CEO Denise Morrison says. She said other big food makers need to respond to consumers' push for transparency and transform to become associated with health and wellness, as CPB has set out to do. People have different views on health and wellness than they did years ago "and no amount of advertising or government definitions will convince them otherwise," she says. (annie.gasparro@wsj.com)

Can Chipotle Recover after Latest Blow? -- Market Talk

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10:36 ET - Analysts are wondering if Chipotle (CMG) can claw its way back after yet another food-safety issue, a suspected norovirus outbreak at one restaurant in Virginia. In the wake of the e.coli outbreaks in 2015, CMG was unable to raise menu prices in 2016 and only recently began raising prices again. But with another headline-making illness, a recent credit card data breach and an advertising campaign that some analysts say fell flat, some are wondering if CMG will continue the recovery it had just been starting to show. "In the aftermath of the e-coli outbreak and the battering of the business, investors must trust in management's ability to execute and we think they still have work to do to earn that," Sanford Bernstein says. (julie.jargon@wsj.com)

STORIES OF INTEREST

Food M&A Picks Up -- Market Talk

1308 GMT - Shares of McCormick & Co. are down 4% in pre-market trading after it announced a deal to buy Reckitt Benckiser Group PLC's food division. The move is just the latest in a flurry of merger activity in the sector. "The industry is suffering from a compression of margins, and in order to be profitable and competitive, economies of scale are critical for success," says Mouhammed Choukeir, chief investment officer at Kleinwort Hambros. Meanwhile, food companies are facing greater competition from the tech sector, while Brexit has cheapened the pound enough to entice more U.S. buyers, he says.(riva.gold@wsj.com)

Jana Partners Sells Whole Foods Stake

Jana Partners LLC, the activist hedge fund whose push to shake-up Whole Foods Market Inc. helped prompt Amazon.com, Inc. to buy the natural grocer, has sold its stake in the company.

Jana has sold its entire stake in Whole Foods, according to a corporate filing. The hedge fund became Whole Foods's second-largest shareholder in April, amassing a nearly 9% stake and demanding sweeping changes at the troubled grocer as it struggled to improve sales.

Besides Deere, a Wealth of Lenders Keep Farmers Afloat -- Market Talk

14:49 ET - Deere (DE) may be a big Farm Belt lender, but it's hardly alone. Besides commercial banks and the Farm Credit system, most manufacturers of crop supplies like seeds and chemicals extend credit to farmers to buy their products, as do agricultural retailers and cooperatives. As farm incomes wither, experts say suppliers are offering aggressive financing options as they compete to get their products in growers' hands. Rob Zeldenrust of North Central Co-op in Mentone, Ind., says his co-op offers 11 different financing options. The amount of money it lent quadrupled between 2013 and 2016, as farmers sought alternative sources of funding after banks slowed the flow of credit. "That's how they get the crop in the ground," he said. "Then it becomes survival." (jesse.newman@wsj.com; @jessenewman13)

FUTURES MARKETS

Higher Cash Cattle Prices Support Futures

Cattle futures reversed course to bounce higher as beefpackers spent more at a closely watched online auction.

Packers paid an average of $1.1827 a pound for around 700 cattle at Wednesday morning's Fed Cattle Exchange online auction. Sales volume fell sharply from the previous week, though prices were higher than expected. The U.S. Department of Agriculture also reported on Wednesday some 4,100 head of cattle sold at an average of $1.17 a pound live and $1.881 a pound dressed the previous day.

Gains in the meat and cash markets helped cattle futures turn higher, too, changing direction after falling earlier this week. Live cattle contracts for August delivery rose 1.9% to $1.17275 a pound at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, while feeder cattle futures also rose.

CASH MARKETS

Zumbrota, Minn Hog $1.00 Lower At $56.00 - Jul 19

Barrow and gilt prices at the Zumbrota, Minn., livestock market today are $1.00 lower at $56.00 per hundredweight.

Sow prices are steady. Sows weighing under 450 pounds are $59.00, 400-450 pounds are at $59.00, 450-500 pounds are $59.00 and those over 500 pounds are $61.00-$63.00.

The day's total run is estimated at 150 head.

Prices are provided by the Central Livestock Association.

Estimated U.S. Pork Packer Margin Index - Jul 19

All figures are on a per-head basis.

Date Standard Margin Estimated margin

Operating Index at vertically -

integrated operations

*

Jul 19 +$34.42 +$93.13

Jul 18 +$35.50 +$93.63

Jul 17 +$31.56 +$92.70

Jul 14 +$31.56 +$93.67

* Based on Iowa State University's latest estimated cost of production.

A positive number indicates a processing margin above the cost of production of the animals.

Beef-O-Meter

This report compares the USDA's latest beef carcass composite

values as a percentage of their respective year-ago prices.

Beef

For Today Choice 102.5

(Percent of Year-Ago) Select 102.3

USDA Boxed Beef, Pork Reports

Wholesale choice-grade beef prices Wednesday fell 32 cents per hundred pounds, to $207.73, according to the USDA. Select-grade prices rose 24 cents per hundred pounds, to $195.49. The total load count was 198. Wholesale pork prices fell 23 cents, to $103.72 a hundred pounds, based on Omaha, Neb., price quotes.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

July 19, 2017 17:38 ET (21:38 GMT)