LIVESTOCK-U.S. live cattle futures slide on end-month profit-taking

By Julie Ingwersen

CHICAGO, Jan 29 (Reuters) - U.S. live cattle futures closed lower on Friday as traders booked profits at the end of the week and month, and as Wall Street equity markets declined, traders said.

Lower-than-expected cash cattle trades added to bearish sentiment. Market-ready cattle traded in the cash market as high as $113 per cwt, traders said, up $3 from the bulk of last week's trade at $110.

However, the price was lower than some had expected, given robust packer margins and a steady climb in wholesale beef prices throughout the month of January.

"The cash (cattle trade) is not as strong as we were hoping, based on the strength in the beef. You tie that in with the selling in the stock market, and the rest was technicals taking over," said Dan Norcini, an independent livestock trader.

Chicago Mercantile Exchange April live cattle settled down 0.850 cent at 121.850 cents per pound. For the month of January, the contract rose 2.600 cents, or 2.2%, inviting profit-taking by speculators.

Feeder cattle futures sagged as corn futures roared to fresh 7-1/2 year highs, signaling higher feed costs. CME March feeder cattle ended down 2.075 cents at 137.725 cents per pound.

Beef prices continued to march upward. Choice cuts of beef rose $1.96 to $233.95 per cwt and select cuts were up $1.82 at $222.70, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

CME hog futures closed mostly higher, supported by firm pork prices and expectations for continued strength this spring. April lean hog futures settled up 0.275 cent at 76.650 cents per pound, hovering just below a life-of-contract high set on Tuesday at 77.600 cents.

Wholesale pork prices rose, with the U.S. pork carcass value rising $1.87 at $85.36 per cwt on Friday afternoon, according to the USDA.

The CME's thinly traded pork cutout futures closed higher, with the April contract settling up 1.000 cent at 84.800 cents per pound, reflecting expectations for pork prices to remain firm.

"It will be hard to break the hog market down in those spring and summer months, if the carcass (value) is strong," Norcini said.

(Reporting by Julie Ingwersen; Editing by Richard Chang)

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