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LIVESTOCK-Cattle, hog futures fall as accelerating pandemic stirs demand concern

By Karl Plume

CHICAGO, Dec 7 (Reuters) - U.S. cattle and hog futures fell on Monday as cash beef and pork prices weakened and as accelerating coronavirus infection rates prompted tighter restrictions on restaurants and other food service outlets, threatening meat sales.

Meanwhile, renewed tensions between the United States and China, after fresh U.S. sanctions on 14 Chinese officials, stirred fears of slower U.S. meat exports to the world's top pork market and growing importer of U.S. beef.

Chicago Mercantile Exchange February live cattle futures fell 1.375 cents to 111.025 cents per pound, a two-week low. CME January feeder cattle futures were down 1.975 cents at 137.800 cents per pound.

CME's benchmark February lean hog futures contract settled 1.625 cents lower at 64.950 cents per pound, its lowest close since Nov. 19. The contract broke through chart support at its 100-day moving average and closed below the key technical level.

Surging U.S. coronavirus infections are triggering fresh restrictions around the country, from prohibitions on private gatherings of any size in California to a ban on indoor dining in New York City.

"The market sees what's happening in California with the COVID restrictions and everyone's worried that continues to spread around the country, with more restaurants closing," said Don Roose, president of U.S. Commodities.

Sinking wholesale beef and pork prices brought retailer demand into question.

After declining much of last week, the choice boxed beef cutout dropped $4.22 to $230.80 per cwt on Monday, while select cuts tumbled $8.03 to $209.48 per cwt, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) data.

The pork carcass cutout value fell 27 cents to $77.90, the USDA said. (Reporting by Karl Plume in Chicago; Editing by David Gregorio)

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