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LIVESTOCK-U.S. live cattle futures close higher, hogs mostly lower

By Julie Ingwersen

CHICAGO, June 18 (Reuters) - U.S. live cattle futures firmed on bargain-buying on Friday after a steep plunge a day earlier, with expectations of steady to higher cash cattle prices next week adding support, traders said.

"The market is chopping around but it looks like it needs to go back to the upside to price in the cash cattle," said Brian Hoops, president at Midwest Market Solutions.

Market-ready cattle traded in Kansas and Texas this week at $121 to $122 per hundredweight, up from trades of $119 to $120 last week. Cattle traded in Nebraska and Iowa at $124 per cwt.

"I wonder if we have gotten through the biggest supplies of the summer. Packers apparently need a little more cattle right now," Hoops said.

Chicago Mercantile Exchange August live cattle futures settled up 0.450 cent at 121.550 cents per pound. The contract notched a life-of-contract high on Wednesday at 125.775 cents before plunging on Thursday, following a broad sell-off in commodity markets from corn to crude oil.

Feeder cattle futures fell for a second straight session on Friday, bruised by a bounce in corn futures that signaled higher feed costs. CME August feeder cattle ended down 2.375 cents at 155.025 cents per pound.

CME lean hog futures were mostly lower, with the most-active July and August contracts pressured by worries about slowing pork export demand from China.

July hogs settled down 2.325 cents at 108.675 cents per pound and August hogs ended down 0.525 cent at 106.675 cents.

The CME's lean hog index, a two-day weighted average of cash hog prices, fell to $121.68 per cwt, easing after reaching its highest since mid-2014 this week.

Traders are uncertain about China's demand after Chinese state media on Wednesday reported the country's pig herd rose 23.5% in May from a year earlier.

China has been a key buyer of U.S. pork since the deadly African swine fever virus began decimating its hog herd three years ago. (Reporting by Julie Ingwersen Editing by Chris Reese)

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