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LIVESTOCK-Live cattle advance in bargain-buying bounce, hogs drop

By Karl Plume

CHICAGO, Dec 10 (Reuters) - U.S. live cattle futures firmed for a second straight day on Thursday on bargain buying and speculative buying after prices hit 2-1/2 week lows earlier this week.

Futures firmed despite lower cash cattle prices and tumbling beef prices as packer demand held stable and processing margins remained profitable.

"With the early week dip, cattle got a little oversold. We've been able to keep the packing pace up pretty well given what's going on with COVID and that's helped to buttress futures a little," said Matthew Wiegand, broker with FuturesOne.

"Even with the boxed beef dropping pretty sharply, the packers are still making money."

Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) February live cattle futures ended 0.875 cent higher at 111.850 cents per pound. January feeder cattle rose 0.575 cent to 137.600 cents per pound.

The choice boxed beef cutout tumbled $3.67 to $214.59 per cwt on Thursday, while choice cuts fell $3.18 to $198.47 per cwt, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Both were the lowest in a month.

Lean hog futures retreated on Thursday after two days of gains, keeping prices largely range-bound.

Benchmark CME February lean hogs fell 1.175 cents to 65.100 cents per pound. The contract broke through chart support at its 100-day moving average and closed below the key technical level.

The composite pork carcass cutout rose 83 cents on Thursday to $78.43 per cwt, holding within a roughly $3.50 range since mid-November.

(Reporting by Karl Plume in Chicago; editing by Jane Wardell)

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