LIVESTOCK-Live cattle futures set five-month high, beef prices rise more

By Tom Polansek

CHICAGO, Aug 12 (Reuters) - Chicago Mercantile Exchange live cattle futures leapt to a five-month high on Wednesday and feeder cattle futures neared a six-month peak as boxed beef prices continued to rise.

Meatpackers are paying more for cattle due to the strength of the beef market, traders said. Prices typically rise heading into Labor Day, a major U.S. holiday for grilling.

Profit margins for beef processors increased to $246.65 per head of cattle from $240.65 on Tuesday, according to Denver-based livestock marketing advisory service

Prices for choice cuts of boxed beef rose by $0.56 to $208.64 per cwt, while select cuts increased by $1.62 to $196.65 per cwt, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

"As long as we can keep boxed beef demand up and maintain those packer margins, I think there's going to be decent support," said Matt Wiegand, commodity broker for FuturesOne.

CME October live cattle rose 1.275 cents to settle at 109.575 cents per pound and set its highest price since March 4. September feeder cattle jumped 1.325 cents to 147.950 cents per pound and reached its highest price since Feb. 24.

The coronavirus pandemic prompted consumers to hoard meat this spring while meatpackers like JBS USA and Tyson Foods temporarily shut slaughterhouses to contain outbreaks among workers. The plant closures in April pushed down prices for cattle.

Negotiated cash prices for cattle this week have increased by about $4 per cwt from last week in southern states, traders said.

"The uptrend in cash is keeping us underpinned," Wiegand said.

In the pork market, CME October lean hogs settled 0.225 cent lower at 51.600 cents per pound.

Traders on Thursday will check weekly U.S. export sales data to assess demand from China, the world's biggest pork consumer,

The USDA, in a monthly report on Wednesday, cut its pork production forecast due to lighter carcass weights and a slower expected slaughter pace in the third quarter.

(Reporting by Tom Polansek in Chicago Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)

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