LIVESTOCK HIGHLIGHTS: Top Stories of the Day

Features Dow Jones Newswires

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China Bans Meat From Six Australian Slaughterhouses

Beijing has placed a temporary ban on meat exports from six Australian slaughterhouses over alleged concerns about labeling discrepancies on products.

The licenses that allow the processors to export beef and lamb to China were suspended as of Monday, Australian officials said Thursday. The six plants include two owned by Brazilian meatpacking giant JBS SA and one partly owned by Chinese firm New Hope.

Battles Over Milk Prices Heat Up -- Market Talk

09:51 ET - Top US milk processor Dean Foods (DF) faces growing price competition from private-label milk that retailers increasingly use as a loss leader, according to Bernstein analysts, who downgrade the company's shares to "underperform." This has happened before, but Bernstein says this time around it looks like a "structural" change for the milk business since retail giants like Wal-Mart (WMT) are opening their own processing facilities. So far this year Dean's "Dairy Pure" branded milk has lost 40 basis points of market share as its price premium over private-label milk widens to 40%, Bernstein says. Dean falls 3.1% to $14.91. (jacob.bunge@wsj.com; @jacobbunge)

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STORIES OF INTEREST

Drier Weather Pushes Grain, Soybean Futures Higher

Grain and soybean futures rose on renewed weather concerns, as less rain fell on the Corn Belt than expected.

Corn and soybean fields in Iowa, a key crop-growing state, got less moisture than initially thought and forecasters only expect significant showers to return to the Midwest in around two weeks. That puts up to a quarter of Midwest crops at risk of stress, Commodity Weather Group said.

Pinnacle Foods Says Investments Will Pay Off -- Market Talk

16:33 ET - Pinnacle Foods (PF) said consumption of its products rose 4.5% in the latest quarter compared to the prior year, when excluding some discontinued products, as it marked its 13th consecutive quarter of market-share growth. However, net sales, which fell 1.6%, missed analysts' expectations. PF's earnings were also hurt by unanticipated investments in its manufacturing system, which CEO Mark Clouse said will pay off in the long run. "A challenge in 2017 for sure, but one from which we fully expect to benefit next year. And combined with the strength of our underlying fundamentals, we remain confident," Clouse said. Clouse said Birds Eye frozen vegetables, Duncan Hines single-serving cake mixes and some of its health-oriented brands drove sales growth. Shares of PF fell 2.1%, but are still up 27% over the past year following speculation of takeover. (annie.gasparro@wsj.com)

FUTURES MARKETS

Livestock Futures End Mixed Session Mostly Higher

Hog futures traded sideways on lower cash-market and pork prices.

Pork prices were sharply lower Thursday, falling 1.17 cents to $98.84 a pound as of midday and were led by the sliding cost of pork bellies. Pork has stayed above $1 a pound in July, with pork bellies trading at record highs. A pound of pork belly was down over 3 cents to $2.1167 at midday.

CASH MARKETS

Zumbrota, Minn Hog Steady At $54.00 - Jul 27

Barrow and gilt prices at the Zumbrota, Minn., livestock market today

are steady at $54.00 per hundredweight.

Sow prices are steady. Sows weighing under 450 pounds are

$60.00-$62.00, 400-450 pounds are at $60.000-$62.00, 450-500 pounds

are $60.00-$62.00 and those over 500 pounds are $64.00-$66.00.

The day's total run is estimated at 100 head.

Prices are provided by the Central Livestock Association.

Estimated U.S. Pork Packer Margin Index - Jul 27

All figures are on a per-head basis.

Date Standard Margin Estimated margin

Operating Index at vertically -

integrated operations

*

Jul 27 +$29.67 +$ 83.48

Jul 26 +$32.29 +$ 85.15

Jul 25 +$36.01 +$ 89.37

* 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 103.3

(Percent of Year-Ago) Select 103.

USDA Boxed Beef, Pork Reports

Wholesale choice-grade beef prices Thursday fell 64 cents per hundred pounds, to $206.43, according to the USDA. Select-grade prices fell $1.21 per hundred pounds, to $196.66. The total load count was 154. Wholesale pork prices fell 78 cents, to $99.23 a hundred pounds, based on Omaha, Neb., price quotes.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

July 27, 2017 17:45 ET (21:45 GMT)