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LIVESTOCK-Hog futures rally on improving export prospects

By Mark Weinraub

CHICAGO, March 14 (Reuters) - U.S. hog futures jumped 3.5 percent on Thursday, supported by signs that exports could pick up due to rising Chinese demand, traders said.

China bought 23,846 tonnes of U.S pork last week, its biggest purchase in nearly two years, U.S. Department of Agriculture data showed on Thursday. Chinese hog prices have surged after an outbreak of African swine fever.

Chinese buyers struck deals for the meat despite import tariffs of 62 percent imposed by China on U.S. pork as a consequence of the trade war between the two countries

Total export sales of pork for the week ended March 7 were 50,300 tonnes.

Chicago Mercantile Exchange April lean hogs gained 2.325 cents to 65.800 cents per pound. June hogs rose 2.700 cent to 83.525 cents.

Prices for the front-month contract failed to take out the three-month high hit on Wednesday.

The closely watched cash pork carcass cutout price was up 95 cents on Thursday at $68.80 per cwt.

Cattle contracts also were firm.

CME April live cattle rose 0.725 cent to 127.400 cents per pound. The June contract was up 1.025 cents at 120.350 cents.

Feeder cattle also were firmer, with April gaining 0.525 cent to 144.650 cents per pound.

Wholesale beef prices were weaker. USDA Department quoted the choice cutout at $227.84 per cwt on Thursday morning, down 40 cents from Wednesday afternoon. Select cuts fell 3 cents to $219.25.

USDA said that export sales of beef for the week totaled 12,800 tonnes. (Reporting by Mark Weinraub in Chicago; editing by Diane Craft)

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