Live cattle futures trim as traders weigh weak exports

By Christopher Walljasper

CHICAGO, Nov 27 (Reuters) - Live cattle futures fell on Friday on profit-taking during a shortened holiday-trading day, while less-than-stellar weekly beef exports added pressure to livestock futures overall, traders said.

Chicago Mercantile Exchange February live cattle futures fell for the first time in the past five trading sessions, ending the day down 0.925 cent at 113.250 cents per pound.

CME January feeder cattle ended down 0.350 cents at 139.825 cents per pound.

"Anyone that was long probably decided to step aside and wait until Monday to go at it again, rather than put yourself in jeopardy of having (markets) open drastically against you," said Lon Malmkar, analyst at Futures One.

Beef export sales of 2,000 tonnes to China and 1,800 tonnes to Japan were more than offset by cancellations from Korea, Mexico, Hong Kong and others, to a net weekly sales of -15,500 tonnes of beef, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Weekly slaughter rates also fell to 564,000 head of cattle, down from 665,000 the week prior, in part due to the Thanksgiving holiday on Thursday, traders said.

For the week, February live cattle futures added 2.60 cents, its first weekly gain in three weeks.

Meanwhile, CME lean hog futures closed lower, with the benchmark February contract settling 0.425 cent lower at 67.250 cents per pound.

For the week, February lean hogs ended 1.90 cents higher, a 2.9% weekly gain.

Weekly pork export sales fell to 18,800 tonnes, a 35% drop from a week prior and 47% below the previous four-week average.

Strength in spring hog contracts indicates optimism on consumer demand in 2021, according to Chuck Shelby, president of Risk Management Commodities.

"We've got some big-time premiums in May of 2021 and on out. I think this forward-looking market, trying to anticipate getting over COVID and getting the vaccine going and consumer demand comes back," said Shelby. (Reporting by Christopher Walljasper in Chicago; Editing by Richard Chang)

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