LIVESTOCK HIGHLIGHTS: Top Stories of the Day

Features Dow Jones Newswires

TOP STORIES

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Red Meat Supplies Fall on Strong Demand -- Market Talk

15:15 ET - Frozen supplies of red meat at the end of 2017 fell from a year earlier, according to the USDA. In its monthly cold storage report, the agency said that wholesalers stocked 489.5M pounds of beef in commercial freezers as of Dec 31, largely steady with the previous month but down 14% from the same time a year earlier. The U.S. produced more meat than ever last year, but strong domestic and global demand kept much of it out of the freezers, preventing a buildup. Stocks of pork bellies, which were historically low for much of 2017, more than doubled from a year earlier as hog production caught up. (benjamin.parkin@wsj.com; @b_parkyn)

Invasive Pests Get Top Billing on Farm Bill Tour -- Market Talk

9:54 ET - USDA Secretary Perdue kicked off his farm bill tour hearing from Pennsylvania researchers about a growing threat to the region's grape farmers: the spotted lanternfly. Academics at Pennsylvania State University, a standout in the nation's land grant system, gave Perdue an earful on the importance of federal funding for agricultural research, which got a boost in the last U.S. farm bill. "I think it will be a priority going forward," Perdue said, after university members highlighted their work on improving water quality, disappearing bee colonies and emerging pest problems like the spotted lanternfly, which is devastating nearby crops. They pushed for ongoing funding for agricultural research, the scale of which is uncertain given steep cuts proposed by the Trump administration. (jesse.newman@wsj.com; @jessenewman13)

STORIES OF INTEREST

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Grain, Soybean Futures Bounce on Lower Dollar

Wheat futures led rising grain-and-soybean markets on Wednesday, helped by a lower U.S. dollar.

The grain-and-oilseed sector lagged other commodities in recent weeks, with hedge funds betting heavily that prices were headed lower. But analysts said a lower dollar, along with changing chart signals and supply outlook, prompted money managers to start getting out of some of those short positions.

Trudeau Briefs U.S. CEOs on Nafta at Davos -- Market Talk

13:07 ET - Canadian PM Justin Trudeau pressed his case for preserving while updating Nafta to a group of U.S. CEOs in Davos at the World Economic Forum. "We just had a great conversation about all the jobs in Canada and the U.S. that rely on Nafta," Trudeau told reporters according to a transcript provided by his office. "We talked a lot about ensuring citizens and workers and families on both sides of the border understand that the integrated supply chains, the trade back and forth between Canada and the U.S. and Mexico has been tremendously beneficial." The CEOs of Cargill, UPS and Tyson Foods were among those in attendance. (paul.vieira@wsj.com; @paulvieira)

USDA Talks Trade Amid Ongoing Farm Belt Worries -- Market Talk

1030 GMT - Expanding trade opportunities for U.S. farmers ranks high on a list of USDA's priorities for the upcoming farm bill, unveiled as Secretary Sonny Perdue begins a jaunt through Pennsylvania to roll out his department's goals for the multi-billion dollar bill. Though short on specifics, USDA says it supports a bill that will "open foreign markets" and "improve U.S. market competitiveness," vowing also to keep a better eye on foreign practices that stymie U.S. agricultural exports. The principles come amid fears that President Donald Trump could scrap Nafta, shutting American farmers out of a decades-long trade deal that turned Mexico and Canada into lucrative markets for agricultural and food products. (jesse.newman@wsj.com; @jessenewman13)

FUTURES MARKETS

Hog Futures Lead Livestock Markets

Livestock futures were mostly higher on Wednesday, with hog prices leading gains.

Large supplies of physical hogs have burdened the market at various points in recent months. But a series of short- and long-term factors, from bouts of freezing weather to growing slaughter capacity at new packing plants, have helped chip away at the surplus of fattened hogs.

CASH MARKETS

Zumbrota, Minn Hog Steady $44.00 - Jan 24

Barrow and gilt prices at the Zumbrota, Minn., livestock market today are steady at $44.00 per hundredweight. Sow prices are $4.00-$5.00 higher. Sows weighing 400-450 pounds are at $42.00, 450-500 pounds are $42.00 and those over 500 pounds are $44.00-$46.00.

The day's total run is estimated at 250 head.

Prices are provided by the Central Livestock Association.

Estimated U.S. Pork Packer Margin Index - Jan 24

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

*

Jan 24 +$19.11 +$ 44.05

Jan 23 +$21.20 +$ 46.00

Jan 22 +$19.29 +$ 44.52

* 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 108.5

(Percent of Year-Ago) Select 106.7

USDA Boxed Beef, Pork Reports

Wholesale choice-grade beef prices Wednesday rose $1.14 per hundred pounds, to $207.99, according to the USDA. Select-grade prices rose 69 cents per hundred pounds, to $200.85. The total load count was 126. Wholesale pork prices fell 91 cents, to $80.89 a hundred pounds, based on Omaha, Neb., price quotes.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

January 24, 2018 17:30 ET (22:30 GMT)