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Cattle futures up on direct cash optimism

Chicago Mercantile Exchange live and feeder cattle were higher, with traders optimistic ahead of the week’s widespread direct business. February live was up $1.05 at $158.85 and April was $.67 higher at $162.45. January feeders were $.32 higher at $183.80 and March was up $.57 at $186.77.

Direct cash cattle business was light to moderate at mostly $157 to $158 on the live basis, up $1 to $2 on the week, with dressed trade at $248 to $250, steady to $2 higher. More activity is probable on Friday. Asking prices were $158 live and $256 dressed with bids at $154 live in the south and $250 to $252 dressed in Nebraska and $249 dressed in Iowa. There was very limited business Wednesday at $157 to $158 on the live basis and $248 dressed. It looks like sellers have the leverage this week, with most feedlots staying current and packers wanting to take advantage of demand and the wholesale market.

Boxed beef closed mixed with moderate movement. Choice was $.55 lower at $278.86 and Select beef was $3.42 higher at $250.70 for a spread of $28.16. The estimated cattle slaughter of 126,000 head was up 17,000 on the week and 11,000 on the year.

At the Mobridge Livestock Exchange feeder cattle sale in South Dakota, there was no reported trend as the previous sale was three weeks ago. The USDA says there was moderate to good demand with the best demand on load lots, while the worst demand was for calves weighing less than 400 pounds. Flesh was light to moderate with many cattle losing condition because of the weather and quality ranged from plain to attractive. Attendance was light as this sale was delayed two weeks by weather and many are still digging out from last week’s blizzard. 64% of the offering were steers and 84% of the total supply weighed less than 600 pounds. Medium and Large 1 feeder steers weighing 500 to 600 pounds sold at $201.50 to $242 and 600 to 670-pound steers brought $181 to $215. Medium and Large 1 feeder heifers weighing 400 to 500 pounds ranged from $181 to $199 and 500-to-600-pound heifers were reported at $172 to $185.50.

Lean hog futures were pressured by the cash and wholesale business during the session ahead of Friday’s delayed weekly export sales numbers. February was down $2.12 at $88.67 and April was $.87 lower at $95.70.

Cash hogs were mixed, but with barely any improvement in negotiated sales from the open to the close. National direct trade has been down all week with many buyers apparently waiting for next year to raise bids, while the modest gains for the reported regional markets might be a sign that those buyers need to secure some near-term numbers. The USDA says the average Iowa/Southern Minnesota/South Dakota barrow and gilt weight for the week ending December 24th was 283.2 pounds, down 2.2 on the week and 7.6 on the year, but with much lower marketings due to Christmas and weather.

National direct barrows and gilts closed $.70 lower with a base price range of $69 to $80 for a weighted average of $75.30, while Iowa/Southern Minnesota was up $.02 and the Western Corn Belt was $.44 higher with both averaging $75.59. The Eastern Corn Belt had no recent comparison with a weighted average of $74.56. Midwest butcher markets are closed this week. Illinois direct sows were $2 lower at $36 to $48 on light demand for light offerings. Barrows and gilts were steady at $56 to $66 on moderate demand for moderate offerings. Boars ranged from $10 to $20.

Pork closed $.79 lower at $87.88. Loins, picnics, ribs, and bellies were weak to sharply lower, with butts and hams modestly higher. The estimated hog slaughter of 490,000 head was up 238,000 on the week and 33,000 on the year.

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