Cattle Futures Mixed; Beef Prices Sizzle

By Benjamin ParkinFeaturesDow Jones Newswires

Cattle futures were mixed as buying interest cooled after recent gains.

February-dated contracts for live cattle fell 0.3% to $1.2295 a pound at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, while later-month futures were higher.

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Cattle-futures traders were consolidating prices around current levels, said Arlan Suderman of INTL FCSTone. The cattle market rallied to a multiweek high in the final trading sessions of 2017, and started the new year with a bounce.

Strong demand helped propel beef prices higher even as futures lagged. Wholesale beef prices jumped $3.52 to $208.66 per 100 pounds at midday Wednesday, the highest point in a month after three consecutive days rising.

Rising beef prices could help bolster cash prices for physical cattle this week too, analysts said. No cattle sold at an online auction on Wednesday morning, but market observers said feedyards expected to sell their cattle for anywhere from $124 to $126 per 100 pounds on a live basis. That would be higher than last week, when live sales averaged at $123.

"Packers will be buying for the first full kill week of 2018. So in order to get sufficient supplies they may need to write larger checks for cattle," said Troy Vetterkind of Vetterkind Cattle Brokerage, even though the futures market faced technical resistance.

Rising cash prices in the hog market, meanwhile, helped futures higher. Physical hog prices rose for a sixth consecutive session to $58.89 per 100 pounds on Tuesday and were expected to be steady to higher again on Wednesday. Higher cash prices were sparked in part by freezing temperatures in the Midwest, which slowed movement of slaughter-ready hogs to meatpackers, analysts said.

CME February lean hog futures rose 0.5% to 71.05 cents a pound.

Write to Benjamin Parkin at benjamin.parkin@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

January 03, 2018 15:37 ET (20:37 GMT)