LIVESTOCK HIGHLIGHTS: Top Stories of the Day

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TOP STORIES

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'Winter Kill' Threat Boosts Wheat Futures; Soybeans Fall

Wheat futures climbed Wednesday as forecasts for an extended cold snap across the U.S. raised crop-damage concerns. Corn futures also rose, while soybeans declined.

Sub-zero temperatures are gripping portions of the U.S. grain belt with little relief anticipated for much of the next week. The prospects for damage to the U.S. winter wheat crop helped perk up prices for wheat contracts generally, pushing March-dated contracts 1.4% higher at the Chicago Board of Trade, settling at $4.28 a bushel -- the contract's highest close since Nov. 14.

STORIES OF INTEREST

Less Grain on the Rails This Year -- Market Talk

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12:20 ET - Shipments of U.S. grain by rail are set to fall in 2017 compared with last year's export-driven bonanza, even with bumper harvests and huge ending stocks. The Association of American Railroads reports a 0.8% fall in carloads in week 51, taking the year-to-date decline to 2.4%. (doug.cameron@wsj.com; @dougcameron)

Orange Juice Futures Fall to Pre-Hurricane Levels -- Market Talk

1019 ET - Frozen concentrated orange juice futures are on track to fall for the 15th straight session. That would push futures to their lowest close since Aug 30, before a devastating hurricane struck Florida, pushing the citrus crop there down to its smallest since the 1940s. Juice processors in Florida have been taking exports from Mexico, Brazil and Europe to fill the void, says Price Futures Group. FCOJ for March is down 0.8% at $1.328 a pound. March raw sugar rises to 14.91 cents a pound. March cocoa is off 0.3% at $1,851 a ton and March cotton is up 0.5% at 77.81 cents a pound. (julie.wernau@wsj.com)

FUTURES MARKETS

Cattle Rally Fizzles as Hogs Retreat

U.S. livestock futures closed with modest gains Wednesday as traders questioned whether fundamentals underpinned the previous day's rally. The front-month live cattle future ended narrowly lower, shedding early gains as a debate continued over whether latent cash buying might drive the market higher in the traditionally quiet week before the new year.

Most lean hog contracts also ended narrowly lower after losing early gains. Live cattle has been the focus for the debate between bulls and bears, and the February contract--the most heavily traded--ended 0.475 cents lower at $1.21 a pound. Other contracts made modest gains.

CASH MARKETS

Zumbrota, Minn Hog Steady At $35.00 - Dec 27

Barrow and gilt prices at the Zumbrota, Minn., livestock market today are steady at $35.00 per hundredweight. Sow prices are steady. Sows weighing 400-450 pounds are at $27.00-$28.00, 450-500 pounds are $27.00-$28.00 and those over 500 pounds are $30.00-$31.00.

The day's total run is estimated at 125 head.

Prices are provided by the Central Livestock Association.

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

This report reflects U.S. pork packer processing margins. The margin indices

are calculated using current cash hog or carcass values and wholesale pork

cutout values and may not reflect actual margins at the plants. These

estimates reflect the general health of the industry and are not meant to

be indicative of any particular company or plant.

Source: USDA, based on Wall Street Journal calculations

All figures are on a per-head basis.

Date Standard Margin Estimated margin

Operating Index at vertically -

integrated operations

*

Dec 27 +$34.79 +$ 33.38

Dec 26 +$36.14 +$ 32.80

Dec 22 +$39.11 +$ 35.36

* 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 101.7

(Percent of Year-Ago) Select 101.6

USDA Boxed Beef, Pork Reports

Wholesale choice-grade beef prices Wednesday fell $1.00 per hundred pounds to $201.60, according to the USDA. Select-grade prices fell 41 cents per hundred pounds to $190.42. The total load count was 123. Wholesale pork prices rose 27 cents to $75.93 a hundred pounds, based on Omaha, Neb., price quotes.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

December 27, 2017 17:43 ET (22:43 GMT)