Cattle Futures Under Pressure; Cash Prices Steady

By FeaturesDow Jones Newswires

Cattle futures slid as the week's physical cattle trade got off to a swift start.

December-dated live cattle futures fell 0.5%, to $1.194 a pound, at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, while later months fell further.

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Meatpackers paid $120 per 100 pounds on a live basis for slaughter-ready cattle on Wednesday, both at the closely watched online Fed Cattle Exchange auction and elsewhere.

Most of the trade took place in Kansas and Nebraska, with some Texas cattle sold. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimated that a total 15,000 head of cattle traded on Wednesday. Cash trade often doesn't start until later in the week.

Wednesday's prices were steady with last week's average of $119.66. But analysts said those levels underwhelmed some traders expecting smaller slaughter-ready supplies this week to translate into rising prices. That helped weigh down the futures market.

Cattle traders are mostly consolidating their positions ahead of a government supply report due Friday. Analysts expect the USDA to put the total number of cattle being fattened for slaughter as of the beginning of December at 6.7% above the same time a year earlier, with cattle newly placed in feedlots in November--an indication of supply in several months to come--rising 5.8%.

Those figures would help confirm a growing supply outlook for next year, which analysts say could weigh on cash-market and futures prices.

Hog futures bounced. CME February lean hog contracts rose 2.2%, to 68.375 cents a pound, rebounding after two consecutive days of losses.

Supply-and-demand factors in the hog market were mixed, however. Cash hog prices have fallen for two consecutive weeks--and were expected steady to lower again on Wednesday--while wholesale pork prices have stagnated ahead of the holiday period.

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

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

December 20, 2017 15:18 ET (20:18 GMT)