Cattle futures end lower ahead of USDA inventory data - CME

Hog futures close mixed
calendar icon 1 February 2024
clock icon 2 minute read

Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) live cattle futures declined on Wednesday, consolidating below 2-1/2-month highs set this week as wholesale beef prices cooled, Wall Street equities struggled and traders awaited semiannual cattle inventory data from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), reported Reuters

CME April live cattle futures settled down 1.050 cents at 180.700 cents per pound, consolidating after a run-up on Monday to 183.450 cents. March feeder cattle futures fell 1.175 cents to finish at 240.150 cents per pound.

In the wholesale beef market, the USDA priced choice cuts at $294.54 per hundredweight (cwt), down $1.53 from Tuesday and a two-week low.

After the CME closed, the USDA reported the total number of US cattle as of Jan. 1 at 87.2 million head, down 2% from a year earlier and the lowest level since 1951.

The number of beef cows was also down 2%, at 28.2 million head, the smallest since 1961. Ranchers have slashed their herds as dry weather in the western US reduced the land available for grazing and raised feeding costs.

The figures were roughly in line with market expectations and signal that US beef supplies will remain tight this year, analysts said.

"Given where the cow herd is right now, it's a fair bet that you are going to have a smaller calf crop in 2024. As a result, you are going to have a smaller feeder supply, and you are going to have fewer cows and less beef coming to market in the next two to three years," said Altin Kalo, agricultural economist for Steiner Consulting.

CME hog futures closed mixed, underpinned by firming cash hog prices. Benchmark April hogs settled down 0.075 cent at 84.825 cents per pound, consolidating one day after notching a four-month top at 85.925 cents.

The CME's Lean Hog Index, a two-day weighted average of cash prices, rose to 71.48 cents per pound, its highest reading since Nov. 28.

The USDA priced the pork carcass cutout late Wednesday at $87.56 per cwt, down 99 cents from Tuesday.

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